By Shermain Bique-Charles
Several travellers have cancelled their bookings to Antigua and Barbuda after the USA’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) placed the twin island state on its list of countries Americans should avoid coming to.
Antigua and Barbuda, along with Curaçao, were added to the level four list recently, which cites both destinations as having “very high” levels of Covid-19.
The islands joined other popular spots that share the highest warning, including Aruba, St Lucia, and Mexico, all of which regularly welcome US tourists.
“This decision has definitely affected the arrivals into Antigua. We have seen some cancellations,” Tourism Minister Charles Fernandez told Observer yesterday.
Fernandez said hoteliers had been looking forward to benefitting from tourists from the US, irrespective of how few they were.
“This is another instance of us trying to plan our way forward with our stakeholders – including our airline partners – and having another unforeseen challenge come at us,” he said.
Fernandez said, however, the government remains confident that persons working in the hotel sector are safe amid targeted training and rigorous protocols presently being practiced in the various certified properties.
“We are hopeful that by the time the country risk is reevaluated (every 28 days) by the CDC that it will be lowered. It is important that the quarantine stipulations be adhered to and it be rigidly policed,” he said.
Furthermore, he believes that the best response is the ability to vaccinate as many people as possible to help the nation reach herd immunity.
While the CDC advises against travelling — and requires all international visitors to test negative for Covid-19 before boarding a flight to the US — the agency does continually update its country-by-country list by risk level.
To determine a country’s designation, the agency uses Covid-19 data, including from the World Health Organization, and looks at incidence rates and new case trajectories.
Currently, Antigua and Barbuda welcomes US travellers and requires passengers coming by air to arrive with a negative Covid-19 PCR test taken within seven days of their flight. Travellers then must be monitored for the virus for up to 14 days.
Not all Caribbean island destinations have received the CDC’s highest warning, with the Bahamas and Bermuda classified as having a “high” level of the virus (level three), while Grenada is said to be “moderate” and and Anguilla is ranked “low”.