From August 1, only fully vaccinated persons in Antigua will be allowed to patronize restaurants, bars and other places of entertainment, Minister of Information Melford Nicholas announced on Thursday.
Speaking after the Cabinet meeting earlier in the day, he also confirmed that all frontline government workers are now required to either get the COVID-19 vaccine or be tested for the virus every 14 days at their own expense.
Nicholas said the measures were vital to contain the spread of the virus.
He explained that all patrons visiting restaurants, bars and places of entertainment will be required to be fully vaccinated and present proof of that upon entry.
“Bar owners are going to be required to ensure that their patrons are fully vaccinated in order to facilitate their entry. What this means is that as a prerequire, the Ministry of Health in collaboration with the Ministry of Information and Technology will provide each of the fully vaccinated persons with a new vaccination card that is portable, that will be laminated, that will have some unique identifiers in it that will allow them to present them when required for entry into entertainment establishments. They will presumably have to present those cards along with a photo ID as a prerequisite to enter,” he explained.
Minister Nicholas warned that bar and restaurant owners and event organizers who permit unvaccinated persons to enter will face “stiff financial penalties and the option as well of being shut down for definitive periods”.
He said the August 1 start of the new policy would give the authorities enough time to produce and distribute the vaccination cards.
Regarding mandatory vaccination or testing for civil servants, Minister Medford unvaccinated civil servants who refuse to get tested will have to remain off the job without pay.
The workers this policy applies to include: Immigration and Customs workers, Port Health workers including the greeters and the nurses and doctors, the EMS workers, the police and the Antigua and Barbuda Defence Force personnel, vendors and businesses that provide services to the cruise passengers in Heritage and Redcliffe Quays, tour operators and taxi drivers and others who are employed by the public sector who are compelled to have contact with those arriving at our ports.
Earlier this week, Chief of Staff in the Office of the Prime Minister, Lionel “Max” Hurst said that while he would excuse workers who are pregnant or might be subject to developing blood clots from taking the vaccine, other civil servants were intent on “being obstinate” and were rejecting the jabs because they were listening to “silly people who are spreading lies and untruths and otherwise trying to dumb us down”.
Responding to a query from President of the Antigua and Barbuda Public Service Association (ABPSA) Joan Peters about how unvaccinated public servants would finance twice-monthly tests for the virus if government went ahead with the proposal to demand either vaccines or periodic testing, Hurst advised that people should “take the vaccine and you won’t have that expense”.
Meantime, Nicholas disclosed that 67 percent of hotel workers in the country have so far been inoculated and it is expected that number will reach 70 percent in another week.