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By Gemma Handy

Controversy is surrounding Sandals Grande Antigua amid claims guests are not consistently being required to wear face masks, causing alarm among staff who fear coronavirus contagion.

Industrial relations consultant Anderson Carty sent a letter to resort bosses on Wednesday expressing his concerns after panicked workers contacted him for advice.

Carty claims Sandals repeatedly demanded to know the names of the staff who had called him but says he refused to identify them as he believed resort chiefs “were not happy” that workers had chosen “to exercise their rights to seek appropriate advice”.

“This is not South Africa,” Carty’s letter continues. “It is Antigua and Barbuda, a nation built on the blood, sweat and tears of a free Afro-Caribbean people.”

He said the country’s labour laws make it clear any worker has the right to be represented by an organisation of their choice.

In the letter addressed to general manager Matthew Cornall, Carty claims Cornall advised staff to take their grievances to the Workers’ Union which had vetted and approved Sandals’ safety protocols.

Carty added that he had confirmed with health officials that guests at the country’s resorts must wear masks by law – and urged Cornall to investigate the matter.

The consultant told Observer he had received no response from Sandals up to Thursday afternoon.

Workers’ Union secretary Chester Hughes confirmed the body had worked with the resort regarding safety for staff but said its remit did not extend to wider protocols such as social distancing and protective face masks.

Hughes said guests were mandated to wear masks in all common areas where they interact with staff, in accordance with the law.

“I personally have not seen any guests not wearing them,” he told Observer. “There are signs all around the property reminding people to wear masks. I am satisfied Sandals are adhering to the guidelines,” he added.

Sandals Grande Antigua welcomed its first guests back to the Dickenson Bay property on June 4 – the first Sandals resort in the Caribbean to reopen since the pandemic began.

Company chairman Gordon ‘Butch’ Stewart said the complex had passed inspection by health and tourism officials “with flying colours”.

That position was echoed by Cornall who told Observer yesterday that the safety of all the resort’s staff, guests and suppliers was “of utmost importance”.

 “We are happy to share that our resort is open and receiving great reviews. We can assure you that all protocols as outlined in our ‘platinum protocol of cleanliness’ are being adhered to and further, that the resort passed all inspections and remains in compliance, as stipulated by the relevant government agencies,” he added.

Meanwhile, Cabinet reiterated yesterday that people who do not comply with face mask-wearing rules face prosecution.

Information Minister Melford Nicholas told a press briefing the government was concerned people were becoming complacent about the risk of Covid-19 as lockdown restrictions continue to be eased.

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