ST. JOHN’S, Antigua – The Antigua and Barbuda government says it will hold talks with stakeholders on Monday regarding the Florida rule allowing non-vaccinated people to board cruise ships bound for the Caribbean.
Several cruise lines have said they will require vaccines once they sail, but others have changed policies to reflect the Florida law. The fine for non-compliance amounts to US$5,000 each time a passenger is asked for proof of vaccination.
“Confining the un-vaccinated to the cruise ships will not be possible, since the passengers are likely to be untruthful when asked if they are vaccinated upon disembarking,” according to a statement issued here following the weekly Cabinet meeting.
The statement noted that the Cabinet held a “long and intense discussion” on the issue of persons not vaccinated for the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic being allowed to board cruise ships heading to the region as Caribbean tourism dependent countries get ready to welcome cruise ship tourist in the coming days.
It said that among the issues discussed were the Florida rule regarding allowing non-vaccinated people to board cruise ships bound for the Caribbean; the new, more transmissible Delta strain of the virus as well as the likely infections that will afflict residents of Antigua and Barbuda “because the vulnerable fail to make use of the vaccine program”.
The statement said that the evidence” clearly shows that visiting tourists have been a negligible source of the virus in Antigua, and that returning residents and nationals have been the major source of imported infections in Antigua and Barbuda.
“The Cabinet discussed several sensible responses to the Florida rule which forbids the cruise vessels from enquiring into the vaccine status of those who board cruise ships in Florida. The rule therefore forbids the cruise lines from segregating vaccinated from un-vaccinated passengers heading to our Caribbean shores
“Following intense discussions and after examining the alternatives, the Cabinet agreed that the best defense by Antigua is to ensure that all those officials and employees of shops and restaurants, vendors and drivers, and the multiple others with whom the cruise passengers are likely to come into contact, will have to be vaccinated, properly masked, and ready to receive the visitors.”
It said that a virtual meeting with the various stakeholders including merchants, taxi drivers, vendors, tour operators and a select number of Cabinet members will take place on July 5.
The statement noted that confining the un-vaccinated to the cruise ships will not be possible, and that “what applies at the airport cannot be reasonably duplicated at the seaport,” the statement said, adding that the “Cabinet repeated and intensified its call to all adults in Antigua and Barbuda to get the vaccine, now in plentiful supply”.