The Cabinet invited to its meeting the Chief Medical Officer (CMO) and her Deputy, the Acting Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health, the Chief Health Inspector and the Commissioner of Police and his Deputy to discuss the removal of the State of Emergency and the curfew and other Covid-related matters.
i. The Minister of Health indicated that there are twenty-seven (27) active cases in Antigua and Barbuda, nineteen (19) of which are locals and eight (8) imported; transmission of the virus is predominantly by locals. The real risk lies with the behaviour of the local population. Fetes are a threat to our continued success in managing the Covid-19 pandemic.
The science governing Omicron is not yet complete and reliable data will still have to be accumulated before the scientists can draw useful conclusions. Following intense discussions by the Cabinet the following decisions were made:
a). The Cabinet having given careful consideration to the presentation made the previous week by the group of persons representing the Promoters, and in consideration of the ongoing threat posed by the Omicron variant has decided to maintain an upper limit of 300 for approved Fetes with a further restriction that only one event will be permitted on any given day subject to all of the other safety protocols inclusive of the rapid test pre-screening.
b). Private parties are limited to 25 persons (other than those held in bio-secure spaces).
ii). Cabinet reserves the right to review every seven days the efficacy of the restrictions that are imposed, in order to determine whether those restrictions are achieving the desired outcome.
iii). More than 26, 000 COVID-19 vaccination identification cards have been issued; they will be required to enter into fetes, bars, clubs and other public events; only the vaccinated may enter into those venues.
iv). 10,000 test kits are to be made available immediately to those who operate restaurants, clubs, bars even churches in order to encourage self-regulation. It is anticipated that those who get positive results from the rapid tests are to present themselves to the Sir Lester Bird Medical Centre for PCR test immediately thereafter.
v). The Police and the CBH enforcement officers are to visit the social spaces with regularity in order to ensure that the operators are abiding by the rules. The regulations will be amended to restrict the absolute number of persons attending any bar or place of entertainment outside of approved Fetes to 150 during the period December 24th 2021 to January 7th 2022.
The regulations will be further strengthened to mandate that Owners and Operators of Bars, Restaurants and Clubs would have to satisfy the CBH Officials that they have sufficient mechanisms in place to limit the persons frequenting their establishments are fully vaccinated and that they present the approved proof of vaccination.
The Commissioner of Police addressed the issue of enforcement. During the Yuletide season, there will be many public events; it is better to check those who are entering than to attempt to check after hundreds would have assembled, he explained.