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By Latrishka Thomas

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The Hodges Bay Resort and Spa is refuting claims of non-compliance with Covid-19 protocols which have been levied as a result of the circulation of videos and images of celebrities and guests staying at the hotel.

The luxury resort referred to statements made publicly, condemning its actions as “misrepresentation and mixed messages”.

Earlier this week, Tourism Minister Charles Fernandez gave his backing to an investigation by health officials into what he dubbed a “complete breach of health and safety protocols” by the resort – saying it was important not to send visitors the message “that anything goes” in Antigua and Barbuda.

Speaking on behalf of the resort at a press conference yesterday was Vice President of Administrative Operations, Celia Morgan, who read out a statement which said the “wild and irresponsible comments represent, among others, poor judgment and has negatively impacted the experience of our guests, Antigua and Barbuda’s age-long reputation for the privacy of visitors to its shores, and the management and staff who are committed to being responsible agents and actors during this most critical period of great challenge and circumstances occasioned by the Covid-19 pandemic”.

The resort categorically denied claims made over the past week that it had put the nation’s safety at risk, saying that it “has been complying with” and will “continue to honour and observe the Covid-19 protocols with which we were provided by the government of Antigua and Barbuda”.

Social media personality Ameen “J’Truth” Dias caused a frenzy on Monday when he suggested to his followers that they should visit the beach near the resort after photos surfaced of the hotel’s guests congregating on nearby Prickly Pear Island.

As a result, a barrier was erected by the resort but, according to Morgan, it was merely to control the flow of traffic to the beach and protect the hotel’s “bubble”.

“On the day in question, we had several celebrities in-house and we learnt of a social media personality who decided to invite his followers to come to the beach at Hodges Bay.

“Out of an abundance of caution, we decided to erect a barrier to all, for flow-controlled access given the very small size of the beach, the need to be able to support the government’s contact tracing initiatives and the need to protect the Hodges Bay Resort bubble.

“Having noticed that the crowd was not overwhelming, we immediately removed the barrier,” she explained.

 Morgan also claimed that no parties have occurred at the resort recently.

“We have not held a party on the resort since …the restricted curfew. The group that would have been seen in the pictures pertaining to Valentine’s Day is a group that travelled here together, dined together on that day. There are other guests in the resort that were in another location at that point in time,” she said.

In addition, Morgan addressed a circulated picture of a staff member serving a guest without a mask. She said that it was a “staged photograph”.

“The employee was wearing her mask and she was asked just for a photograph to present a drink. She was not at any point in time serving without a mask,” Morgan claimed.

Meanwhile, the resort reported that they have lost a few bookings as a result of “racial slurs” used in attacking the resort and its staff.

“Since the racial slurs and insults, we have lost forward bookings and would have had to refund a number of our in-house guests as a measure of assurance that everything is okay.

“This type of behaviour is simply not good for our tourism product,” she lamented.