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By Kadeem Joseph

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Citizens and residents who are returning to Antigua and Barbuda will soon have to include the cost of a PCR test into their travel budget as part of new entry requirements that will come into effect next month.

The clarification came from Chief of Staff in the Prime Minister’s Office, Lionel “Max” Hurst, who said the test will cost locals US $50 or EC $135 at the airport.

He said residents requiring a PCR test before departing the nation’s shores are still required to pay EC $300 at the Sir Lester Bird Mount St John’s Medical Centre.

The new requirement forms part of new travel guidelines that will take effect on June 1.

“On the other hand, if you are not a citizen or resident of Antigua and Barbuda and you’re leaving, it’s US $300 at the Mount St John and US $100 upon entering Antigua,” Hurst added.

The Chief of Staff said the fee will be covered in advance for some travellers, since revenues from the tests could be “collected by the same authorities that collect the fee that is charged everyone for landing in Antigua”.

In seeking to justify the move, the government official explained that the measure will ultimately help to protect residents, since an individual could encounter the Covid-19 virus or its variants after being tested prior to their arrival in the twin island state.

“We are doing our best to protect the Antigua and Barbuda residents by ensuring that anyone arriving in Antigua and Barbuda has a PCR test saying they are okay,” Hurst said.

He also recounted a case where a person transmitted Covid-19 to family members despite having a PCR test taken no more than seven days before the individual arrived on island.

The transmission resulted in the death of two family members, according to Hurst.

Meanwhile, the Cabinet has walked back a decision made last week declaring that as of June 1, people hoping to enter Antigua and Barbuda will have to present results of a PCR test taken no more than three days prior to embarking an aircraft heading to the country.

Hurst said since the announcement, hotel properties have “screamed”, noting that their clients are greater prepared to abide by the previous seven-day window, “but three days may prove to be very inconvenient or not even possible”.

He said the Cabinet had been notified that several other countries in the region had already moved towards reducing the period for the test requirement.