By Makeida Antonio
A government official has indicated plans to proceed with the removal of the current state of emergency (SOE), once the Covid-19 Omicron variant does not pose any significant threat to the country.
The Prime Minister’s Chief of Staff Lionel Hurst told Observer that PM Gaston Browne was due to take the matter to Parliament this week.
“The Prime Minister himself indicated on Saturday that, in all likelihood, we are going to remove the state of emergency.
“The actual decision will be made in the Parliament because it was a parliamentary decision in the first place to impose a state of emergency,” Hurst said on Observer AM yesterday.
For those who have long awaited the return of being able to enjoy constitutional freedoms such as the freedom of movement that has been restricted by a nightly curfew, Hurst assured residents that this will occur after Parliament dissolves the SOE.
“Once the Parliament has voted to remove the state of emergency the curfew falls away, so then instead of having to be back in your home at 11 o’clock at night, you can stay out on the street around the clock. That’s a right that was suspended during these emergency times,” Hurst explained.
The Chief of Staff believes that income-earning potential for residents will increase as emergency conditions begin to fade away.
“As we begin to go back to normal what we are seeing is an uptick in all kinds of activity that will allow the Antigua and Barbuda household to … earn an amount that matches what they used to earn before the pandemic,” he said.
Meanwhile, the government is projecting a positive economic outlook for Antigua and Barbuda.
Hurst said that while the Covid-19 pandemic has caused a serious blow to the country’s economy, which had been forecasted to grow by 6.75 percent in 2020 by the US Department of State, he remains firm that complete economic collapse was prevented by the administration.
“It is evident that we made the right decision in ensuring that all those persons employed by government continued to receive a paycheck.
“Nobody was laid off, nobody was furloughed from government service and we paid the salaries and wages on time each month,” the Chief of Staff claimed.
He also said that data concerning the country’s economic growth will be reported by the end of the year. Additionally, he foresees that there will be an increase in economic activity in 2022 as things return to normal.
“Cruise vessels are just now beginning to come back. More and more airlines are adding more services to Antigua. As a consequence, we anticipate that these moves that bring many passengers to our shores will result in them spending more money in Antigua than they have ever spent before,” Hurst added.
Figures published in October by international market data company Statista predict the country’s real GDP will grow by 7.02 percent in 2022.