By Orville Williams
Just about a week after announcing that incoming travellers would soon only be required to quarantine for seven days – versus the previous 14-day regime – the government has disclosed yet another adjustment to those requirements.
Starting June 1, returning nationals/residents and tourist visitors who are fully vaccinated for Covid-19, could spend as little as 48 hours in quarantine, while awaiting the results of the Covid-19 PCR tests.
On arrival at the VC Bird International Airport or any other port of entry, according to the government, a PCR test will be administered to each traveller by personnel from the Quarantine Authority. That is in addition to the pre-departure test that must now be taken no more than three days prior to travel.
Fully vaccinated tourists will then be allowed to move on to their bio-secure spaces; i.e., hotels certified by the Central Board of Health (CBH), while fully vaccinated residents/returning nationals will be allowed to go to their homes.
Travellers who have only received one dose of a two-dose vaccine, or have received no Covid-19 vaccine whatsoever, will be transported to the government’s quarantine facility or also allowed to go home, though the latter is “dependent on the conditions at the private residences”.
Within 48 hours, the fully vaccinated persons will get the results of their on-arrival Covid-19 tests and will be permitted to immediately end their quarantine if the results return negative. If they are positive, however, these persons “will be required to spend 14 days in quarantine and be tested a second time before their release on the 14th day”.
Meanwhile, persons who have not had full vaccination or have had no vaccines at all, will get their results within five days and allowed to end quarantine within seven days of their arrival, if the results return negative.
The rules for quarantine in Antigua and Barbuda have been adjusted many times throughout the course of the pandemic, but as global vaccination figures steadily increase, the country’s health officials are seemingly more confident to allow greater freedoms without the risks that previously came with such decisions.
Despite the increased freedoms, however, there are still concerns about the threat of new and possibly more dangerous variants of the virus that causes Covid-19. This sustained threat prompted the government to at least maintain the testing on arrival, but another development currently in the works could do even more to help the situation.
As Information Minister Melford Nicholas, explained yesterday, “the Head of the Clinical and Laboratory Services has indicated that they are actually moving now towards ensuring that they can also do those additional tests that would allow them to detect variants”.
He added, that, “this is an important development…to be able to communicate that to our major [tourism] markets, because the British government is actually concerned about the proliferation of other variants across the globe.
“So, the fact that we are going to develop that capability and be able to boast that capability, will be a fillip to the attractiveness of Antigua as a tourism destination.”
The government also noted that all incoming travellers – both residents and tourists – will be expected to cover the costs of their on-arrival PCR tests. That figure is said to be different though, for both groups of people.