Lead health official suggests unvaccinated passengers should remain on cruise vessels

An adjustment to the law in the US state of Florida could see more unvaccinated cruise passengers coming to Antigua and Barbuda than previously expected. (Photo courtesy Cruise Industry News)
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By Theresa Goodwin

[email protected]

Unvaccinated cruise ship passengers should not be allowed to disembark their vessels upon arrival at the St John’s Habour.

Chief Health Inspector Sharon Martin made that suggestion on Sunday ahead of talks between government officials on how Antigua and Barbuda will deal with passengers who are not vaccinated against the dreaded Covid-19 virus.

Information Minister Melford Nicholas told reporters last week that the talks will commence shortly amid a new law that is being championed by Florida Governor Ron De-Santis to fine cruise liners that require passengers to show proof of vaccination prior to boarding.

Martin, who is one of the lead officials in the fight against the disease, said allowing unvaccinated passengers permission to dock will put nationals at risks and would undo some of the gains made by our public health officials.

“From since March 2020, public health officials have been working tirelessly without any break; we are tired, and we do not want to see a second wave. Yes, they can come, they can view the island from the balcony of the ship; it is my view that they should stay on the ship and that is how I see it,” Martin suggested.

She was supported by Ear Nose and Throat Specialist, Dr George Roberts, who expressed a similar view on Sunday’s Big Issues Programme.

“The reality of it is that we have to protect ourselves, because if we ever get another outbreak, those same cruise ships that we are courting would just turn around and go somewhere else.

“In the interest of our economy, it is a good thing to allow the cruise ships to come back. However, it has to be under rigid and strict conditions,” Dr Roberts added.

They were supported by government’s pathologist, Dr Lester Simon, who also shared that he is concerned about competition among the destinations for cruise business.

“What I am fearful about is that the islands are going to be fighting against each other to design a programme for a mixture of vaccinated and unvaccinated passengers.”

Seabourn Odyssey is the first vessel that is expected to dock in the country in less than a month, carrying at least 540 passengers.

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