‘It requires the right balance—Chief of Staff comments on achievement of herd immunity and possible lifting of SOE

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By Carlena Knight

Chief of Staff in the Prime Minister’s office, Lionel ‘Max’ Hurst, says that the right balance is necessary if the nation is hoping to achieve herd immunity and see the State of Emergency lifted.

Hurst’s comments stem from Prime Minister Gaston Browne’s announcement over the weekend that “based on the present trajectory,” Antigua and Barbuda is “well on its way to achieving herd immunity by the end of the year” and that the State of Emergency would not be renewed.

The Prime Minister cautioned that many of the freedoms such as patronising bars, clubs and cinemas would continue to be reserved for vaccinated persons “until such time as we achieve herd immunity.”

PM Browne’s comments come just days after Prime Minister Phillip J Pierre of St. Lucia announced that on October 16, the State of Emergency which was imposed by the Allan Chastanet administration would be lifted.

PM Pierre mentioned that a right balance must be struck to ensure that there is not another outbreak in the country.

He did however mention that a number of the other protocols would remain in place.

Hurst shares Pierre’s sentiments in striking “the right balance.”

He too remains hopeful that this current trajectory continues, but said that it is up to the residents to get vaccinated, not only to benefit locals in terms of guaranteeing a bit more freedom, but also to benefit the tourism sector.

“The objective is to find the right balance. Remember, if the tourists abroad are of the view that the destination is not safe, they will not come. We must also sell the idea of a safe destination. One in which all of those who work in the hotel industry are vaccinated. Once [tourists] are of the view that we have done the right things in Antigua to keep them safe while they’re here, then more of them will come. It is this balance that we are attempting to achieve and we think it can be achieved. We believe the people of Antigua and Barbuda are sufficiently wise to step forward and take the vaccine, and that is really the challenge,” Hurst said.

The matter of the State of Emergency is one that has been discussed in all facets of society with many locals and even politicians believing it is no longer necessary, and it is nothing more than a power ploy by the Gaston Browne-led administration.

The State of Emergency was first declared in March last year, two weeks after the country recorded its first Covid-19 infection, and it has been extended on every occasion up to this point.

It allows the government to take certain actions that it would otherwise be restricted from taking, including the implementation of the nightly curfew, the mobilisation of law enforcement on a large scale, and the temporary closure of beaches.

The current State of Emergency ends on December 27th.

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