By Orville Williams
The government will be looking at tightening the regulations for persons entering the country, to prevent dual nationals from exploiting the system on account of their Antiguan and Barbudan citizenship.
This week’s post-Cabinet report reiterated that “all persons arriving in Antigua are required to have a Covid-negative certificate which is displayed to the health officials upon arrival”, but importantly, it added that “those citizens of Antigua and Barbuda who have dual nationality are not exempt from the requirement to have a valid PCR negative test certificate”.
Information Minister Melford Nicholas explained in yesterday’s post-Cabinet media briefing that the latter piece of advice was due to an observed ‘grey area’ in the process, that has seen dual nationals attempt to bypass certain stipulations.
“There is a loophole, because we have a dual way of dealing with persons arriving, where tourists are coming into the country and they’re allowed to stay in a bio-secure facility.
“[According to reports] it had been detected that there are citizens of Antigua and Barbuda who live abroad [and] are carrying two passports, who would enter the system at the distant end, sporting an Antiguan passport. Upon arrival, they will present a foreign passport and indicate that they’re staying in a bio-secure facility, only to breach that at the end of the day and enter back into the population,” Nicholas explained.
With Covid-19 cases on the rise and the country now under even more restrictions, this is one grey area the government simply cannot afford to go unaddressed. With the reports having formally come from the health authorities, Nicholas added that the next step is to fix the gap.
“The health officials have indicated that from ‘Port Health’ [ports of entry], they have discovered this and they have made these determinations and so, they’ve asked us to look at improving the regulations to ensure that where these attempts are being made, there is a capture at the end of it.”
Given the increased threat of Covid-19 spread coming out of the December holiday season, the government recently adjusted the protocols, moving from largely allowing returning nationals to self-quarantine, to implementing government quarantine as the primary choice.