As the new Pfizer vaccine is being distributed throughout the United States, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) has reclassified the Caribbean nations of Antigua and Barbuda for COVID-19. The two nations have been reclassified from high to moderate risk, with about 20,000 vaccines allotted for the population of the two islands. The announcement was celebrated through Antigua and Barbuda. Tourism officials like Asot Michael feared that continuing the “high” classification would impact the already hurting economy. Only 139 confirmed cases of COVID-19 have been reported between the two countries since the onset of the global pandemic.
The Pandemic Is Still Serious And Requires Vigilance
“The reclassification from high to moderate risk is early holiday present for Antigua and Barbuda,” says Asot Michael, a Member of Parliament in the two countries. “This pandemic is serious. It requires us to avoid panic and to act responsibly.” Speaking to Parliament during a socially distanced video call, he continued, “There is no doubt that our resilience will be challenged like never before. We must continue to combat the spread of the disease, ensure that our people receive the approved vaccine and turn this period into something positive for our island nations.”
Pfizer and BioNTech, the makers of the vaccines that are now being released through the United States, announced on November 18, 2020, that the efficacy portion of their COVID-19 vaccine trial showed to prevent 95% of cases.
Entry Requirements Still Stand
Even though the COVID-19 threat has been downgraded, there is still a state of emergency in Antigua and Barbuda. It is set to end on December 31, 2020, unless the government decides to renew it. Anyone from the United States planning a visit to the two islands must follow all of the entry and exit requirements. Failure to do so or to follow the instructions of the Quarantine Authority faces a fine of EC $10,000 or up to six months in prison.
“We have been lucky that our COVID-19 numbers have remained low,” says Asot Michael. “Even though there is a vaccine that is showing promising results at containing this pandemic, it is not enough of a reassurance to allow people into the country without precaution.”
The entry and exit rules include but are not limited to:
- Arriving air passengers over the age of 12 years old must have a negative COVID-10 RT-PCR test that has been taken within seven days of their flight, including passengers that are transiting to another destination.
- All arriving passengers must fill out a Health Declaration Form and comply with screenings and temperature checks by the Port Health authorities upon arrival.
- Anyone with symptoms of COVID-19 will be isolated by the Health Authorities.
- Passengers arriving by sea are subject to quarantine after an assessment by Port Health Authorities and must fill out a Health Declaration Form.
- Face masks are mandatory and must be worn in public spaces and during disembarkation. Social distancing protocols must be followed.
- All arriving passengers must register with the Ministry of Health Wellness and the Environment. Transiting passengers and the crew of the airline or sea vehicle who need to remain overnight will be provided lodging at a government-designated facility or hotel.
Asot Michael: Our Health Care System Is Trying To Keep Up
Asot Michael’s statement about their healthcare system still rings true eleven months into the pandemic. “There is no question that our health care system needs additional capacity for effective management and control of this pandemic… more doctors, more nurses, more testing equipment, special isolation units, more hospital beds, more ventilators, more personal protective equipment, adequate medical supplies, epidemiological surveillance systems to detect outbreaks at the community level, quarantine facilities.” He continued by stating, “A vaccine is the first step towards eliminating this pandemic, but it will take time to distribute through the country and world.”
Asot Michael: Everyone Is Responsible For Helping Reduce The Spread Of COVID-19
In an effort to keep residents mindful of the pandemic, Asot Michael urges them to continue their efforts to protect themselves and everyone around them. “Everyone is responsible for helping reduce the spread of COVID-19 even though a vaccine is available. To do that, continue keeping your mind, body, and surroundings clean. Frequently and thoroughly wash your hands with soap and water for at least 30 seconds. Cover your face when coughing and sneezing. If you use a tissue, please, properly dispose of it. Continue maintaining social distance and use the time to rest and seek solitude while seeking self-renewal and growth.”
He also recommends eating healthy, regular exercise and the proper amount of sleep to boost the immune system, taking care of loved ones and being supportive, careful, and alert. “Most of all,” he continues, “Please be kind to all of those you come in contact with. Remember that they may be dealing with the pandemic differently than you or may have loved ones suffering from this awful illness.”