The Cabinet invited the Chief Medical Officer and the Deputy Chief Medical Officer to participate in its meeting, in order to procure the advice of the two outstanding Doctors.
i. The members were informed that 752 active cases were reported in the first week of January. There is strong evidence to suggest that the surge will continue, even though at a slower pace. Healthcare workers are also adversely affected. A field hospital has been activated on the grounds of the Sir Lester Bird Medical Centre in order to lighten the load of those who appear at the Emergency Room, especially for testing, since the Omicron variant of the Covid-19 is easily transmissible and keeps the infected away from work, school, church and recreation.
ii. The two professionals are of the view that the citizens and residents of Antigua and Barbuda must learn to live with Covid and its variants; they encourage unvaccinated people across Antigua and Barbuda to get vaccinated immediately, and boosted when eligible.
iii. The CMO and her Deputy announced a standardized program for those who are infected by the Covid variants. Persons who are positive for COVID-19 should remain in isolation for 7 days. Once asymptomatic on the 5th, 6th and 7th days, they can be released from isolation with a negative rapid antigen test. If the test is positive, they should remain in isolation for a further 3 days until the 10th day when they are released without a test.
For those who are not positive and are in quarantine, the duration of quarantine is as follows:
Unvaccinated 14 days
Fully vaccinated 10 days
Fully vaccinated with a booster 7 days
iv. The CMO informed that 15 additional samples have shown that the Omicron variant is present in Antigua and Barbuda, and children are infected. At least 1,000 active cases of Covid are being treated in Antigua and Barbuda.
The Cabinet agreed that there will be no shutdowns, no curfews and all vessels scheduled to arrive in Antigua will be allowed to dock.
i. The Cabinet noted that self-testing kits are not in stock at this time; the testing kits that are in stock must be administered by a healthcare professional. Nonetheless, anyone who tests positive from a self-testing kit will be required to be tested by a healthcare professional in order for the record to be complete; and, those who test negative from a self-testing kit may in fact have received a false negative, and can be dangerous to their family, friends and co-workers.
They too are to be tested by a healthcare professional. There are 50,000 test kits presently in stock. A program of training, for those using the test kits, will take place at schools, at the places where uniformed personnel are located, and at public institutions.
The Cabinet learned that there is a chronic shortage of nurses which is reflected in the additional tasks assigned to the nurses at several institutions. The Cabinet expressed its gratitude to the nurses for the part they continue to play in performing their national duty.
i. A discussion was also held about the Merck and Pfizer tablets and it was established that these tablets are very costly but may be deemed more attractive than a syringed inoculation. Innoculation for children between the ages of 5-12 years is to be provided to Antigua and Barbuda by a friendly neighbour.
ii. In October 2021, the country had 00 active cases; the spike in infections following the Yuletide Season is evident. Had there been fetes of 300 persons, or of 850 to 1,000 patrons as requested, the Cabinet is persuaded that the number of infections would have been even higher.