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By Theresa Goodwin

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With hurricane season just over three weeks away, plans are underway to modify local shelters to promote social distancing and other Covid-19 protocols as the country gears up for an active 2020 season.

The National Office of Disaster Services (NODS) is taking steps to ensure handwashing stations are installed and adequate space is available to keep families safe.

NODS’s director Philmore Mullin said the agency will be partnering with the Ministry of Works and Housing.

“We are thinking about some kind of subdivision within the shelters where families can primarily stay together as opposed to having people in different areas. That is a work in progress, we are making some inquiries and are in talks with the Ministry of Works. If the plan for subdivision does not work we have to explore other options,” Mullin explained.

Antigua currently has between 40 and 46 shelters and there are plans to open additional facilities.

NODs is also encouraging residents to have personal hygiene items ready and be extra vigilant with children in the event they have to use a shelter.

People are also being advised to bring emergency supplies such as basic food items and water, clothing, medication, flashlight, battery-operated radio, important documents and baby supplies, among other things.

Those who are on medication are also urged to ensure they keep an adequate supply.

“With Covid-19 around, this hurricane season will not be normal,” Mullin warned. “As a result, people need to make deliberate preparations for shelter. Those who can shelter with relatives and friends should do so and a public shelter should be a last resort. People need to start planning early as to how they are going to go about this particular issue,” Mullin said.

The list of emergency shelters for this year is currently being finalised.

Meanwhile, the latest forecasts predict a more dramatic season than earlier estimates. Colorado State University is projecting 16 named storms, the Weather Channel is predicting 18, AccuWeather projects 14 to 18, and the University of Arizona is predicting 19 named storms.

As for hurricanes and major hurricanes, all of the organisations are predicting a greater than normal number.

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