By Orville Williams
As the tourism sector continues its modest recovery and more travelers flock to the island, Chief Heath Inspector, Sharon Martin, is concerned about bars and other similar establishments that are seemingly beginning to disregard the established ‘anti-Covid’ protocols.
Some of the conditions that these establishments must meet to be allowed to continue operating, include appropriate social distancing and mask-wearing by patrons and staff, as well as no loud music. The latter condition was included ahead of the most recent reopening of that sector, as it discourages the urge for people to want to socialise in a more intimate manner.
Despite making these conditions clear when inspecting and certifying these places to open and operate, Martin – with the Central Board of Health (CBH) that carried out the certifications – says there is new information that the operators are flouting the conditions.
She warned that this could spell danger for the population, adding that she has received numerous reports of these occurrences from different areas in the country.
“That’s a cause for concern, because we would have said before that only background music [should be played], but we’re hearing about that. Once they’re having loud music, people are dancing and carrying on, of course they’re not going to be social distancing.
“On more than one occasion, I’ve received a report, and I’ve even seen videos showing what is going on at particular bars. They’re not behaving. I’ve gotten reports about [bars] in Potters and reports about English Harbour as well. [I’m almost] getting reports on a weekly basis”, Martin said.
She also assured that her team – acting on these reports – continues to assess each situation to determine the authenticity of the reports, before engaging the police, if necessary, to assist with carrying out further action.
During her conversation with our newsroom, Martin also explained the ‘restrictions’ placed on visitors to the country via cruise vessels, versus those who enter the country via air travel.
The first cruise vessel to arrive in Antigua and Barbuda in more than a year docked in St John’s on Thursday, but the passengers were not allowed the same free rein as they did prior to the pandemic.
Martin says the process of restricting the cruise visitors to guided tours and shopping, is a means of mitigating the risk of infection, as they would have visited several neighbouring territories before docking in Antigua.
“They want to keep them in a bubble rather than just allowing them to roam…because they are coming from one country to another, to another.
[For this recent vessel], Antigua was its fourth country of call. It left St Maarten to Barbados, to St Lucia and then Antigua, and when the passengers are island-hopping, it’s a cause for concern. So, they’re trying to keep them together, so that just in case anything was to arise – like somebody starting to have signs and symptoms – it will make [isolating the individuals] easier.”
Windstar Cruises’ Star Breeze vessel docked in Heritage Quay on Thursday, and in Falmouth Harbour yesterday, with approximately 250 fully vaccinated passengers, officially marking the restart of the local cruise tourism sector.