By Carlena Knight
It appears highly unlikely that government will be altering the new route for this year’s Carnival parades, despite calls from some for it to return to the city centre.
This was indicated by Information Minister Melford Nicholas at Thursday’s post-Cabinet press briefing when asked if Cabinet was considering altering the planned route in light of suggestions made by sections of the public.
Nicholas explained that, based on discussions with the Minister of Creative Industries and the police, there are no definitive signs that the route will return to its former path.
“The minister remains persuaded, and of course he is being supported by the police department that the new route lends itself to better management.
“But, of course, there has been a lot of feedback in relation to the economic dislocation for persons who ply their trade … but Carnival is just a few days away from opening,” Nicholas said.
A test run of the new route took place last Thursday, beginning at the Police Recreation Grounds, traversing Sir Sydney Walling Highway, up to the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium and back.
The decision to move the parades out of the heart of St John’s was in response to concerns over traffic congestion, along with complaints from police that they were tricky to manage.
Meanwhile, preparations at the Antigua Recreation Grounds (ARG) — dubbed Carnival City for the annual summer festival — are said to be progressing smoothly and should be completed in time for next week’s opening.
“I am aware that work is going on fervently as we speak to erect a stage and to make some final preparations at the ARG itself.
“You would have been aware that a few weeks before that, steps were taken to dismantle the West Indies Oil double decker stand and that has been completed,” Nicholas said.
“So, I think the crew that is working from Public Works and with whatever contractors they have been working with, know of the timeline and I have been assured and the Cabinet has been assured that we are still on course to have the project completed in time for the opening of Carnival.”
There is still no intention, according to Nicholas, to mandate Carnival revellers show proof of vaccination, despite concerns that the country may record increased Covid cases following the celebrations.
It will be the first time Antigua and Barbuda has staged Carnival since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Official celebrations run from July 27 to August 1. The stand-alone T-Shirt Mas’ will be held on July 23.