By Carlena Knight
Cabinet has mandated that anyone who wishes to pay their final respects to former Prime Minister and National Hero, Sir Lester Bryant Bird, must be fully vaccinated in order to attend his funeral.
According to this week’s post-Cabinet notes, “only fully vaccinated persons will be allowed entry to the Sir Vivian Richards Cricket Stadium” where the state funeral will take place on August 26.
All other protocols such as social distancing, mask-wearing and sanitising of hands must also be adhered to.
Cabinet spokesperson and Information Minister Melford Nicholas also revealed yesterday that only a specific set of people will be granted access to the public cemetery.
“At the burial, only family and only persons [who are] part of the official party will be allowed to participate in that part of the ceremony,” Nicholas said.
This was the new policy outlined by Cabinet based on the recent rise in Covid cases in the country.
In fact, the latest results published by the Ministry of Health revealed that, currently, there are 119 active cases of the virus — 56 males and 63 females. Seven of those cases are persons aged one to 11; four aged 12-17; and 108 between the ages of 18-87.
Additionally, 11 of the cases are imported, 82 are residents/locals, and 26 are indeterminate. Further, 61 of the cases comprise unvaccinated persons, nine are partially vaccinated, 25 are fully vaccinated while nine are too young to be vaccinated and 15 others cannot be determined, the Cabinet notes said.
Meanwhile, Cabinet has established a special committee comprising Health Minister Molwyn Joseph, Social Transformation Minister Dean Jonas, and Foreign Affairs Minister EP Chet Greene to help organise Sir Lester’s funeral.
August 26 has been declared a public holiday. In addition, there will be three days of official mourning — from August 24-26 — during which time Sir Lester’s body will lie in state at the Parliament and at 46 North Street, the home of the Antigua Trades and Labour Union, from which institution sprang the ABLP which he led for more than a decade.
Sir Lester’s remains will be buried alongside his mother’s, Lady Lydia Bryant-Bird, in the public cemetery.
Cabinet announced that posthumous tributes and other honours will be bestowed on the late statesman, to include a monument to be constructed at the National Heroes Cemetery which will commemorate his life and legacy.
A special, joint Parliamentary Session to honour him was held on Tuesday.
Sir Lester, who served as Antigua and Barbuda’s second prime minister from 1994 to 2004, is remembered as one of the Caribbean’s most illustrious sons, who contributed immensely to the development of the twin island and the wider region.
The Antigua Grammar School alumni, politician and lawyer was also a keen sportsman who recorded international success in cricket and long jump.
Sir Lester was 83 years old when he died on August 9 following a long battle with his health.
Flags across the country are already being flown at half-mast and will continue to do so until the day of the funeral.