Health Ministry looking to rectify travel status with CDC

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By Orville Williams

The Ministry of Health is currently attempting to rectify Antigua and Barbuda’s Covid-19 status with the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), after the high warning placed on the country based on associated risks.

According to the CDC’s website, there is a level three warning currently in place for Antigua and Barbuda, with travellers being told to avoid non-essential travel. The warning also reads that there is “widespread ongoing transmission”.

Also, travellers of foreign nationality (non-US-citizens) who arrive from ‘high-risk states’ are required to quarantine upon arrival on international flights at the JFK International Airport.

According to this week’s post-Cabinet report, the Chief Medical Officer has written to the CDC to make the case that Antigua and Barbuda falls below the threshold the CDC has established, to declare Antigua – like other OECS countries – well within the lowest category of the infectious disease.

During yesterday’s post-Cabinet media briefing, Cabinet spokesperson Information Minister Melford Nicholas, explained just how the CDC warning has affected the country, along with the work being done to have the issue resolved.

“The absence of Antigua from the exemption list did cause some alarm in the sector. I think some of the hoteliers have indicated rapid cancellations and consequently, the matter was escalated to the Minister of Tourism.

“We did discuss it at Cabinet [on Thursday and] already measures have been put in place. We even went as far as mobilising our Ambassador to Washington, Ron Sanders and we have made a determination at the level of Governor Cuomo in New York, [that] this is a state-level decision that was made in respect of those types of re-entry restrictions.

“It was determined that the governorship in New York was relying on the outlook from the CDC, which in itself seemed to have had some lagging information in respect of Antigua. So the engagement that is taking place now between all those agencies of the government – including the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Tourism and our ambassador in Washington – are focused on getting the CDC to present the most current information,” Nicholas explained.

“Antigua would qualify, where we are right now, in respect of being within that bubble of consideration, in that our level of infection is below 10 per 100,000,” he added.

Minister Nicholas also gave some assurances to the hoteliers, following clarifications on the status of US nationals who would visit the island.

“The requirement for quarantining on re-entry into the United States through New York, that only applies to non-US citizens. We have been able to get that clarification, so for tourists who would be travelling back to the United States from Antigua – provided they’re US citizens – it would not affect them.

“To the extent that the alarm that was caused by the cancellations, I think the hoteliers can now be assured that it does not impair the business that we have been able to generate for them and with them,” Nicholas said.

Other Caribbean countries with a level three warning by the CDC include the Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, the British Virgin Islands, Bonaire, Curacao, Jamaica, Martinique, Sint Eustatius, Sint Maarten, and Trinidad and Tobago.

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