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Thursday 29th April 2021

The Cabinet of Antigua and Barbuda met for more than 7 hours today, most meeting face-to-face and four using virtual means. The customary practice of the Gaston Browne-led Cabinet is to invite experts and officials to the weekly meetings in order to enhance decision-making.

1. The Cabinet invited the Chief Medical Officer (CMO) and the Emergency Medical Technician responsible for the follow-up of those who have had tracking bracelets placed on their arms. More than 400 bracelets have been deployed.  

i. Those entering Antigua and Barbuda who can demonstrate that they have received two jabs of the vaccine and also have a Covid-19 negative certificate will now be required to spend no more than 7 days in quarantine, down from 14 days. A Covid-19 test will be administered on the 5th day of the quarantine, and a negative test result will cause a release upon receipt, two days later.

ii. The beaches will remain closed on Labour Day, May 3, 2021, as announced earlier.

iii. Bars remain closed. A representative group of bar owners will meet via zoom with Health Ministry officials and a sub-committee of Cabinet Ministers; the officials will receive from the bar owners the safeguards which they will put in place in order to ensure that, should bars be granted permission to re-open, their proposed safeguards would protect employees and patrons from contracting and spreading the virus. This will be a first step towards re-opening, not unlike what was done by restaurateurs.

iv. The Cabinet is giving consideration to providing to youth, who have taken the vaccine, a barcode sent to their smartphone which would allow them entry to certain establishments that will require evidence of vaccination to enter.

v. The restrictions of 25 persons, applying to funerals and weddings, remain unchanged. Churches may seat as many as the building allows while applyingg the protocols established.

vi. The Mobile Vaccination Unit will be moving to All Saints Anglican Church Grounds on Thursday, April 29 from 8:00 am to 3:00 pm; then to Woods Center Parking Lot on Friday, April 30 from 8:00 am to 3:00 pm; then to the Grand Princess Casino Parking Lot at Jolly Harbour on Saturday, May 1, from 9:00 am to 3:00 pm. Vaccination continues at the two polyclinics, the Multipurpose and the Precision Center on Thursday and Friday. The Mobile Unit will be moving again next week Saturday at a venue to be announced.  

2.  The Cabinet invited Dr. Curtis Charles of UWI Five Islands to address it on a new and innovative approach which the Five Islands Campus is instituting in order to prepare the youth of Antigua and Barbuda and the OECS to step ahead of their counterparts by focusing on data science. Artificial Intelligence (A.I.), he told the Cabinet, will be used to solve many challenges faced by human civilization; how to apply big data to problem-solving will be the next innovation in computing. UWI Five Islands will be ahead of the curve, collaborating with Harvard University and other outstanding learning centers to teach this new discipline, that will mark the UWI Campus as innovative and very attractive to the next generation.
Dr. Charles brings a very impressive resume to the task that has been set by the new principal of the UWI Five Islands Campus.

3. Cabinet was informed that 90 parcels of land in Seatons will be set aside to meet the demands for new homes. It is estimated that 60 homes can fit comfortably in the new space set-aside, to include a park, a recreation center, green space, roads and other amenities that will make for comfortable living. Plans to create at least 10,000 new homes across Antigua and Barbuda are being fashioned to meet the demand for new housing.  

4. i. The Cabinet was informed that the Second Floor of the Police Headquarters Building on American Road is now complete. The unfinished floor had so remained since the time of construction in 1974, or for 47 years. The Cabinet applauded the Minister of Works and the Minister of Public Safety for their persistence in completing the task.

ii. This approach to renewal and retrofitting of neglected Government-owned properties has been the hallmark of the administration, since 2014. The old Holberton Hospital has had two buildings--the Margetson Ward and the Blackburne Ward--transformed; Edward Ward is next. The Nurses Hostel on Queen Elizabeth Highway has been turned into a very useful building which housed evacuees from Barbuda and is now housing residents of the Fiennes Institute, while the old Fiennes Institute is being reconstructed. The Old Ministry of Education Building on Upper Church Street has been retrofitted and transformed and is now the home of the CBH. The historic fence and buildings at Government House have been returned to stately status, befitting the Head of State. The abandoned Old Administration Building on High and Long Streets, which the previous administration planned to destroy for parking cars, has been restored and now houses the Ministry of Health; it was built in 1958 on piles and is structurally sound. The new Public Library Building on Hailes Promenade which remained incomplete, was repaired and outfitted for use. The unused car park building was purchased from the bankrupt CLICO Group, and work has begun to transform it and ready it for occupancy by several government agencies that now pay rent. At the old US Naval Base, the rooms which once housed soldiers are being renovated and serve as a temporary prison and an isolation/quarantine center. More government-owned buildings have been targeted for renewal, slowed only be the devastation wrought by Covid-19 and its impact on revenues and the economy. New housing and even new temporary housing are under construction on Bay Street, Villa.

5. The plans to rename the MSJMC to the Sir Lester Bird Mount St. John Medical Center have been crystalized. A date of May 18, 2021, has been fixed for the renaming exercise. The National Hero and former Prime Minister is still hospitalized and has been visited by many of his colleague Cabinet members. He is reportedly in good spirits.

6. Labour Day 2021 will be celebrated virtually on Monday, May 3, 2021, with speeches and other celebratory events held indoors and beamed live via ABSTV, Facebook, and several Radio Stations. No beaches are open on that holiday in order to discourage clustering and the spread of the Covid-19 virus.

7. The Parliament will convene next Thursday, May 6, 2021, to consider a number of new bills and amendments to existing legislation.

Cabinet has approved the measure to allow up to 25 people to gather socially. Information Minister the Honourable Melford Nicholas says the decision has been made considering the number of congregants allowed at weddings and funerals. Physical distancing is still encouraged.

Watch the cabinet briefing here. More details to follow.

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