By Shermain Bique-Charles
Tourism official Alex DeBrito has welcomed plans to exempt travellers who have been fully vaccinated from quarantine requirements.
On Saturday, Prime Minister Gaston Browne announced that the Cabinet will consider reducing the seven-day quarantine requirement as an additional benefit for people who have opted to be inoculated.
He said the decision was discussed with the Health Minister Molwyn Joseph and it is expected to receive Cabinet approval on Wednesday.
“He [Molwyn Joseph] is the one who recommended this based on a decision taken by the CDC [US’ Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] and …that in itself will serve as an incentive,” Browne said.
But while quarantine won’t be necessary, all arriving passengers must show evidence of a negative PCR test, Browne explained.
Meanwhile, DeBrito said the move will be beneficial for the industry and the entire country as a whole.
“It would be good for the industry if there is less limitation to travel in the future. I believe other tourist destinations will start to ask for people to be vaccinated and give them less requirements for Covid tests,” DeBrito told Observer.
However, DeBrito, first vice chairman of the Antigua and Barbuda Hotels and Tourism Association, said such a move should be guided by scientific evidence to avoid consequences.
“I think it should be carefully studied before we make a decision, especially if the vaccine is not enough to prevent contamination between people travelling to countries,” he added.
Some countries including the BVI and Grenada have taken a decision to reduce their quarantine time to 48 hours or less for fully vaccinated people upon arrival.
Since being rolled out last week, Dr Janelle Charles-Williams, chair of the vaccine education committee, said the second-dose phase of the public vaccination programme has been encouraging.
Inoculation continued at the weekend after just over 1,200 people received their second dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine on Friday.
Last week, healthcare professionals and Cabinet members – who were among the first to take the first dose of the vaccine – completed their full AstraZeneca inoculation.
Other target groups – including teachers and hotel workers – will be informed by the health ministry about when to complete their dosage.
According to the ministry’s latest Covid-19 dashboard – which reflects vaccination figures up to May 14 – 31,647 people have received a first dose, and 1,598 of those have received a second shot.