ST. JOHN’S, Antigua – Health Minister Molwyn Joseph says the government should give serious consideration to implementing new policies that would allow for only vaccinated persons to enter the country.
Currently all travelers must present a PCR Test within seven days of travel. A proposed reduction to three days with the acceptance of a Rapid Antigen Test for Vaccinated travelers is also being touted by the ABHTA.
“Well, the time has come for us to do a thorough evaluation of that and I will go as far as to say the science is showing that that is a matter that should be seriously considered by the Cabinet of Antigua and Barbuda.
“I am not inclined to take a position as a minister of government before I take the opportunity to sit with my colleagues and give them my professional opinion, but I will go as far to say, indeed, that is something that we should take seriously and cannot be ignored any longer,” Joseph said on Observer Radio here.
His remarks came as the island recorded an increase in the number of coronavirus (COVID-19) cases here and a call by the Antigua & Barbuda Hotels and Tourism Association (ABHTA) for the Gaston Browne government to mandate that only vaccinated travelers may enter for stay-over vacations.
“Our focus is squarely on the protection of our employees, their families and further, for the sustainability of the sector,” said Vernon Jeffers Snr, ABHTA executive chairman.
“The hospitality industry has taken a severe hit from the COVID-19 pandemic and for the immediate future, the pandemic will continue to cause uncertainty in occupancy levels and sustained,” he added.
The ABHTA is proposing that such a mandate for arriving passengers go into effect as of October 1, this year, allowing passengers sufficient notice of any changes to our travel regulations.
Joseph told radio listeners that a vaccination policy will now have to be looked at acknowledging the fluid situation that the country not finds itself regarding the pandemic.
“The fact of the matter is that this is a very dynamic environment; that is why we review every week because this thing with the virus is not static at all,” Joseph said.
“If we had considered this, let’s say nine months ago, it would be a clear ‘no’, because nine months ago many people were coming to Antigua who were not vaccinated and to have imposed that requirement then would have resulted in a dramatic reduction of the flow of visitors to the country.
“Now, if it is showing that 80-90 percent of the visitors coming to our country are vaccinated, why not make it a requirement?” he asked, adding “it has to do with the evolution and balance of the economic interest”.
Several hotels here have already implemented such a policy with the Elite Island Resorts, which represents five properties in Antigua, plus several more across the region, being the first to introduce the measure by informing prospective guests that as of September 1, they will have to show proof of vaccination upon check-in.
Elite posted the information on the website of each property pointing out that proof of vaccination means a written CDC vaccination card for the US, NHS vaccination report pass or certificate for UK visitors, official vaccination receipt for Canadians, or similar recognized documents.
Antigua and Barbuda has recorded 43 deaths and 1, 540 positive cases of the virus since the first case was detected in March last year.