Health minister rationalises rigid screening protocols for returning nationals

Health Minister Molwyn Joseph (file photo)
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By Theresa Goodwin

[email protected]

Health Minister Molwyn Joseph has provided a rationale for what many people have called a disparity in the manner in which returning nationals and visitors are processed upon arrival at the VC Bird International Airport.

Over the past few months, returning nationals have been vocal about the issue as they complained about unfairness in the process and victimization in some cases.

The minister sought to add some clarity when he addressed the issue in Parliament on Thursday, saying that visiting tourists are screened and taken directly to their hotels, while most returning nationals are reuniting with their families and the rest of the community, thus presenting a greater risk of spreading Covid-19.

 “When a visitor comes and goes to a hotel with the established protocols in the hotel, the limitations that are imposed on them [are] not the same as someone coming from New York. If they are allowed to go into their community without checking they can immediately transmit Covid-19 to their families.

“That would create an exponential multiplication of the disease within communities across the island. Special effort is made to manage and hence, the majority of people coming back home have to face a different standard in terms of quarantine. I make no apologies about it; it is common sense,” the health minister said.

He also stated that returning nationals in many countries are required to pay their own way while at a quarantine facility maintained by the state while Antigua and Barbuda citizens are benefitting from the service at the expense of the government.

Joseph said since the borders reopened in June, over 2,500 citizens have been placed at the quarantine facility at Hawksbill.

And, aaccording to the health minister, more than 8,000 passengers have arrived the twin-island since then.

Over the past few weeks, government officials have also indicated that returning nationals are leading the local infection rate.

In his most recent public comment on the matter, Prime Minister Gaston Browne indicated that returning nationals will first have to test for Covid-19 before they arrive here and again after they disembark a flight.

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