By Theresa Goodwin
The country’s tourism minister said he has given his full support to an investigation that will be conducted into an apparent breach of health and safety protocols at the Hodges Bay Resort and Spa.
The probe, to be conducted by both the Ministries of Health and Legal Affairs, follows the circulation of videos and images of parties and events that apparently took place recently at the resort.
They show people standing and sitting closely together, violating rules on physical distancing and facemask-wearing.
In one of the images, obtained by Observer, a waitress is seen serving guests without wearing a mask.
Hodges Bay denies any wrongdoing and claims it has complied with the latest Covid safety protocols issued by the government.
However, Tourism Minister Charles “Max” Fernandez said he is deeply concerned by the images which were also shared with him.
Fernandez said he has already sought an audience with the Ministry of Legal Affairs, the Antigua and Barbuda Hotels and Tourism Association, and the resort’s management to discuss the matter.
“This is not the kind of thing that we would want to promote for Antigua and Barbuda. I understand that celebrity influencers are important, but that is not the kind of thing we would support with the protocols that are now in place,” Fernandez said.
He explained that the type of behaviour displayed in some of the videos, whether it is on or off the property, is not something the Ministry of Tourism would sanction.
“Our priority has always been to keep our people safe. Even though in recent times there has been no known case of transmission of the virus at any of the hotels, we can’t afford to drop our guard,” he said.
“In addition, we must be careful about sending the wrong message to our visitors – that ‘anything goes’ here,” the minister added.
The Hodges Bay spokesman said however, “This is a private resort and our guests, arriving from overseas, have fully complied with our internal protocols to ensure that they and or our staff are not exposed.”
He continued, “We note with concern and hereby express our consternation in respect of the misrepresentation and mixed messages being pushed.”
The spokesman added that the company was ready to continue talks with the government and other relevant parties to fashion a strategy of balance to deal with the continuous inflow of visitors into the country while managing the risk to staff and guests.