Gov’t and Barbuda Council at loggerheads over Covid-19 protocols

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By Theresa Goodwin

[email protected]

The latest row between the government and the Barbuda Council over whether or not the council had the right to impose restrictive measures to curb the spread of the Covid-19 virus will be brought to the attention of the international community.

Member of Parliament for Barbuda Trevor Walker confirmed on radio yesterday that a letter that was supposedly written by Prime Minister Gaston Browne to the principals of the Peace Love and Happiness (PLH) has been copied to the ”Inter American Human Rights Commission which a few months ago said that they are concerned about where development or Barbuda is concerned and how the government is treating us”.

Walker claimed that Browne informed PLH in his letter to disregard the measures by the council to halt all construction work on the island for the time being. The other measures included restricting travel to and from Antigua and reducing the number of people allowed to conduct business or gather in one space.

The council imposed the measures, that were expected to remain in place until September 9, in response to an increase in Covid cases for the first time in recent weeks.

While officials on the sister island have on several occasions linked the virus and new infections to construction workers who are travelling back and forth to Barbuda, the government has maintained there is no evidence to link the rise in Codrington’s Covid cases to the construction sites which employ more than 350 workers.

Meanwhile, Council Secretary Paul Nedd — who wrote to Prime Minister Gaston Browne protesting the fact that the Council’s decision had been overruled — is adamant that Barbudans will be placed in a very vulnerable position.

“We are really in a crisis moment, we never had Covid and now we are creeping up the ladder. The government is not playing the game with us fair, the government is telling us we should ignore the facts and threats of Covid and continue construction and development and at the same time they are telling us we are in a state of emergency,” Nedd explained.

Earlier this week, Acting Chief Medical Officer Dr Teri-Ann Joseph warned that medical facilities on the mainland were nearing capacity. Barbuda, which managed to evade the virus for 10 months after it was first detected in Antigua last year, currently has an all time high of 14 active cases.

According to Nedd, each day more than 100 people travel from Antigua to work on Barbuda’s several construction sites, the biggest of which is the Peace, Love and Happiness development.

“Most ferries are booked out to the main construction site which is PLH. On a daily basis both ferries bring in about over 100 people and I suspect they are taking back and forth. We have an issue that we need to look at as sensible people, we can’t just sit back and pretend that this is not happening,” the council secretary said.

PLH recently implemented a mandatory vaccination policy for all staff and contractors entering the site. It is one of the first private companies in the country to do so.

Project President Justin Wilshaw told Observer the move would mitigate the impact on the health system while safeguarding the livelihoods of over 100 Barbudans who, he says, depend on PLH for an income.

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