A critical meeting will be convened next Thursday to decide the fate of the rest of the pre-Carnival feting season amid rising fears of the COVID-19 breaching the shores of Antigua and Barbuda.
“I know there are some countries that have now banned large gatherings in public places, but I don’t believe we are yet at that stage in Antigua and Barbuda. But who knows, by next week, we could be at that stage,” Festivals Minister, Daryll Matthew told OBSERVER media one day after he announced the country’s non-participation in this year’s CARIFTA Games.
Next week’s meeting will include all of the local promoters, along with Ministry of Health officials, to decide the way forward for their anticipated events.
In addition to the looming uncertainty regarding the pre-Carnival fetes, Matthew indicated that there will definitely be a scaled down version of the Carnival activities this year.
The budget for Carnival, which is usually in the region of $5 million, has been mostly funded through taxes collected from tourist arrivals to the country.
Several hoteliers have already reported an abnormal increase in cancellations from key source markets during the past two weeks.
“Declining tourism arrivals will translate into declining revenues. And we are already starting to look at a contingency where we will have to scale back our Carnival celebrations this year, simply because I do not believe that the resources will be there,” Matthew announced earlier on Thursday.
Four months ahead of the nation’s largest festival, the minister suggested splitting the activities in two.
Matthew suggested that the shows geared for the adult crowd could be staged as normal during July and August, while those featuring the younger performers could be delayed until the Independence celebrations in November.
“These are the questions we’re asking now to see how we can scale it back to cut down on the expenditure, simply because, it is already anticipated that with this outbreak continuing [worldwide], we are going to have some difficult months ahead,” he said.
Read more in the Daily OBSERVER.