Public divided on keeping nation’s borders open

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By Adia Wynter

Public opinions are being shared regarding a surge in imported Covid-19 cases since the reopening of the country’s borders. People who spoke to Observer on Monday also gave their thoughts on the economic balance between lives and livelihoods.

The 39 imported cases of Covid-19 announced last week – coupled with the news that four staff at Hodges Bay resort tested positive via rapid antigen tests – are causing many to query whether allowing international travellers entry into the twin island nation was wise.

To some, the decision was a vital one – and necessary for the economy’s survival. Keeping borders closed could exacerbate hardship among those who depend on the tourism industry for survival, some felt.

One local vendor said he was not an advocate for re-closing the country.

“I think for the borders to close down again, it’s going to be a whole setback for people like me that have my small business,” he said.

A taxi driver shared a similar opinion but said restrictions on badly-hit destinations should be considered.

“These people, whether they are tourists… that are coming from Covid-19 hotspots, they should restrict them if they don’t want to take the tests that we have here. If they refuse these tests, I believe they should just send them back where they come from,” he added.

One man, Robert Young, also put forward the notion of mandatory testing and government supervised quarantining upon arrival, regardless of presentation of documentation showing that they were tested before arriving in Antigua.

He said, “If we make it a policy that for anyone that wants to come to Antigua from now onward, just make up your mind: if you’re not going to be quarantined, we are not going to invite you into our country.”

When presented with the idea of restricting travel between Antigua and countries considered Covid-19 hotspots, Young went on to say, “We shouldn’t restrict anyone… We should make sure that these people come here with [proof] to show us that you have been tested.”

He went on to say, “When you reach here, it doesn’t matter how you have been proven by your country [to be Covid-19 free], because you can catch Covid-19 on that plane… so for us to make sure that you do not have Covid-19 is for us to make sure that we quarantine you.”

There are those who do not share this opinion. A young man’s response to restricting flights from countries with a high number of Covid-19 cases was to close the borders entirely.

He began, “Why restrict the hotspots? Just restrict all countries because it’s all over the globe… Everywhere has it. Just close the borders totally if you cannot provide a system that can help to protect the people that are in our country.”

The notion that the government has rushed the reopening of the country’s borders and is putting profit above people seems to be a shared opinion.

Another vendor, Fitz ‘the Fruit Man’, when asked for his views, said, “Oh yes. I believe so. I believe they are looking for the dollars and forgetting the cents.”

He believes a non-partisan taskforce would help the government navigate the pandemic and its impact on the country.

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