Pending relaxation of Covid-19 protocols to include optional mask wearing

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By Elesha George

[email protected]

The government is planning to relax a number of mandates that police interaction during the Covid-19 pandemic.

On Thursday, Cabinet announced that it was no longer mandatory to provide proof of vaccination when entering government buildings.

It is also expected to make a final policy decision next week on changes to make mask wearing “optional”.

Cabinet spokesman Melford Nicholas said after reviewing the trends and data of the coronavirus, the government is open to relaxing some of the protocols including a mandate which requires unvaccinated public sector workers to get tested for covid every 14 days.

“All of the policy relating to mask wearing is going to be driven and informed by levels of infection in the society and also, of course, the level of inoculation or vaccination in the society.”

He explained that “the Chief Medical Officer through her minister has indicated that the vast majority of the more recent infections were of the Omicron variant and if anything, it would have led to a bit more of the society having a level of immunity even for an abbreviated period of time and the numbers are pretty low and there are no hospitalisations at this stage”. 

The changes are likely to affect the operation of public schools, which are nowoperating on a tiered system.

It is still unclear, however, if or when these schools will begin to operate on a five-day face-to-face schedule, even as the government continues to ease Covid-19 restrictions.

According to Nicholas, nearly 100 percent herd immunity exists in secondary schools.

The government continues to encourage more people to become vaccinated as it navigates a way to bring about normalcy in the economy.

Protocols including, hand washing, social distancing and wearing of masks will remain in place until a concrete decision is made on the way forward.

Meanwhile, the travel advisory has been updated to accommodate returning nationals who were unable to because of their vaccination status.

Starting this month, partially vaccinated/unvaccinated returning nationals, residents and children below the age of 18 will be exempt from providing documentation of their full vaccination status.

According to the updated advisory, unvaccinated returning nationals and residents with no Covid-19 symptoms are permitted entry provided they (A) Present a negative certified PCR/Rapid Antigen Test result taken no more than four (4) days prior to arrival in Antigua and Barbuda. (B) Submit to RT PCR testing upon arrival at their own expense. (C) Quarantine for ten (10) days if partially vaccinated – i. Either received 1 dose of a 2-dose vaccine OR ii. the 2nd dose of a 2-dose vaccine was received less than two weeks prior to arrival. (D) Quarantine for fourteen (14) days if unvaccinated. If symptoms appear during the period of quarantine, the person must be placed in isolation and will be tested for Covid-19.

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