By Makeida Antonio
Antigua and Barbuda has made sweeping changes to several of the country’s Covid-19 protocols following this week’s Cabinet meeting.
The Cabinet agreed to repeal the regulations which stipulate mask-wearing. As a result, residents will no longer be required to wear facemasks effective March 16.
However, Chief Medical Officer Dr Rhonda Sealey-Thomas and her team proposed to ministers that residents working indoors such as in offices, stores, supermarkets, financial institutions, churches, civic groups, schools, bars and clubs should still be advised to wear masks.
Additionally, recommendations to encourage residents to wear masks outdoors in areas where there is likely to be a crowd were also made by the CMO and her team.
The return of face-to-face classes at all schools across the country from Monday was another major policy change.
Since the lifting of the mask mandate also applies to schools, students will no longer be required to wear them. However, security personnel and other staff are being encouraged to keep wearing masks since they will most likely come into contact with a large number of students and other personnel.
The Cabinet conceded that social distancing “cannot be achieved” while face-to-face learning occurs, therefore sanitising and temperature checks are still required in schools.
Public transportation including buses and taxis can now operate at full capacity with sanitising remaining as a requirement.
Also coming into effect on March 16 is the lifting of the vaccination requirement for returning nationals and residents. The unvaccinated will need to show a negative PCR or approved rapid antigen test no more than four days old. They will also be required to quarantine at home for 10-14 days after arrival.
Vaccinated nationals and residents will not require a Covid test to enter the country unless they show symptoms of possible infection.
The relaxation of the vaccine mandate does not extend to tourists who will still be required to be fully jabbed. However, they will no longer need to show a negative Covid test upon entry to the twin island nation.