By Carlena Knight
Political leader of the opposition United Progressive Party (UPP), Harold Lovell, said although he understands the government’s ‘travel bubble’ initiative, he’s concerned about the protocols that health officials will eventually roll out.
The government is expected to soon formalise details of an arrangement that will allow citizens from Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana, and Jamaica to travel to Antigua without having to present negative Covid-19 test results upon entry.
All other individuals who intend to travel to Antigua are required to show documentation declaring them virus-free from a test taken no more than seven days prior to travel.
“Fundamentally, I understand what is at play here; it’s an attempt to stimulate regional travel,” Lovell said.
“I have no difficulty with an attempt to stimulate regional travel, but I would want to see what the other protocols will be as far as this initiative is concerned.
“I would want to hear the details but … if this is reciprocal, then I believe that is a good way to go, but I would want to see what the side work is to see [and] what safeguards are in place to make certain that the residents and citizens of Antigua and Barbuda are protected and that we are not subject to any further importation of Covid cases.
“We cannot afford to have anymore cases being imported and we must be very careful we do not have a further spread of Covid-19.”
The move is due to the “sufficiently low” number of infected persons in the four countries and, according to Information Minister Melford Nicholas, the risk of a spread is limited.
Jamaica, as of July 8, recorded six new cases of Covid-19, which brought the total to 751; 600 patients have recovered. Guyana had 284 cases with 125 recoveries thus far. These two countries are recorded as the Caribbean nations with the sixth (Jamaica) and eighth (Guyana) most confirmed Covid-19 cases. Trinidad and Tobago ranks below these two, as do the other OECS states.
Nicholas, however, noted that reciprocity between the identified countries will be a requirement for the travel bubble agreement to be in effect. He added that Jamaica has already implemented a travel bubble of its own, which includes Antigua and Barbuda, but could not confirm which other countries have not yet signed on.
Those islands that agree to the new measure will however see their citizens undergoing non-invasive temperature tests upon entry, in lieu of the Covid-19 test.
Nicholas added that, while the decision has already been made at the Cabinet level, the Ministry of Health will be tasked with ironing out the details of the required protocols.
“Even though the Cabinet has made the determination at this high level, we are still going to submit this policy for the consideration of the medical and health professionals so that they can determine the further protocols that would need to be added to ensure that persons who are travelling to Antigua from these locations would not necessarily be subjected to all of the rigours with, let’s say someone from other hotspots, but the protocols are to be determined by the Ministry of Health,” the Minister of Information added.
By Carlena Knight