By Theresa Goodwin
The removal of the mandate that stipulates all incoming travellers to Antigua and Barbuda must be fully vaccinated with an approved jab before entry could form part of Cabinet’s discussions this week.
Prime Minister Gaston Browne made that disclosure on his weekly radio show over the weekend, indicating that the government is moving towards a “policy of personal responsibility” where people will be required to “be more vigilant and manage the risk associated with the Covid-19 virus”.
“The mandatory vaccination in order to be allowed to enter the country, we could actually eliminate that requirement and allow for individuals vaccinated or unvaccinated to enter the country with a negative PCR or an approved rapid antigen test, “Browne said.
He stated further that, “the burden of the risk will be placed on individuals who will be required to be more vigilant and to manage the risks of contracting Covid, or if they contract Covid to move swiftly to get treatment to avoid hospitalisations or death”.
The most recent travel advisory issued by the government stipulates that all arriving and transiting passengers aged 18 and over, including returning residents, must provide evidence of having received both doses of a two-dose WHO-approved Covid-19 vaccine, or a full dose of a single-dose WHO-approved Covid-19 vaccine to be permitted entry into Antigua and Barbuda.
At present, fully vaccinated arriving passengers must also present proof of a negative PCR or approved rapid antigen test, no more than four days old, to be allowed entry.
It is too early to determine what impact such a move might have on the tourism industry given the fact that earlier on in the pandemic key players in the sector recommended the mandatory vaccination policy be implemented for all arriving passengers. The Antigua and Barbuda Hotels and Tourism Association was one of the first organisations to make that call.
The development is also coming at a time when the World Health Organization (WHO) has urged nations to lift or ease Covid-19 travel restrictions, saying they have proven to be of little public health value, while being detrimental to economic growth.