ST. JOHN’S, Antigua – The Antigua and Barbuda government says every person entering the country will need to be tested and will undergo mandatory quarantine, after the island recorded 39 cases of the coronavirus (COVID-19) from individuals who recently arrived in the country.
Officials say all 39 had been placed in quarantine since their arrival in Antigua. The 39 cases now bring the total number of cases in Antigua and Barbuda to 65.
“Everyone who enters Antigua and Barbuda, including returning nationals, to live within communities with relatives and friends, with no exception, will be tested and will be quarantined mandatorily,” Prime Minister Gaston Browne said, adding “we must continue to keep our country safe”.
Browne said that none of the 39 cases is a threat to the community at this time, and that, through the identification, tracing and quarantining process, the Ministry of Health is containing and treating affected persons.
He said the 39 new cases are persons, in which in excess of half are returning nationals – who entered Antigua by air over the last few days.
“It is important that you know that none of these persons have been hospitalized. Presently, there is no one hospitalized in Antigua and Barbuda with COVID, and none of the new cases require hospitalization.”
Browne said the detection and quarantining of these 39 new cases, “demonstrate the effectiveness of the procedures that have been established and are being scrupulously implemented at our ports of entry.
“No one is exempt from them now, nor will they be at any time in the future. That includes me, every Government Minister, the Governor-General – simply put, everyone who enters the country from abroad will be tested and quarantined or isolated as appropriate while this pandemic continues. We are learning from experience,” Browne added.
Antigua and Barbuda earlier this month reopened its borders after it had been shut down as part of the measures to deal with the spread of the virus that has killed three people and infected 65 others here.
“We are already bolstering our arrangements at the airport and other ports of entry, including the acquisition of 12,500 rapid test kits, 20,000 swabs and 2000 reagents which have been shipped and will arrive on the island shortly.”
Browne said that despite the enormous pressure on government revenues that have been badly hit by the effects of COVID-19 “we have carved out funds to buy these COVID-19 testing supplies.
“Our purpose is to isolate any who tests positive and to keep them away from our healthy domestic population. I know that there will be those who will seize this opportunity to attack the government, claiming that we should have kept our borders closed to all, including nationals who were trapped abroad.
“Those, who make these claims, do so for selfish political reasons. They would prefer the economy to wither and die; they would prefer unemployment to rise and poverty to increase, just so that they can take advantage of people’s suffering for their own selfish political ends.
“That is not what I stand for. Nor, is it what the Government I lead stands for,” he added.
“My Government and the country as a whole, was faced with a choice of continuing to keep our borders shut and watch our country and its people decline into abject poverty and disaster, or open the borders, while putting protections firmly in place, that would give tourism a chance to revive and our people a better opportunity to live and prosper.
“After the widest consultation with various sectors of the society, including local businesses, the hotel sector and trade unions, we decided to reopen the border,” Browne added.