Antigua Government Announces Sweeping Vaccine Mandate

(CMC) – The Antigua and Barbuda government has given a September 20 deadline for all unvaccinated public sector workers to show proof of having been vaccinated against the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

A policy document released on Wednesday night also outlines similar measures for persons operating public transport, the trade union movement, private sector employees as well as arriving passengers into the country.

In the policy statement, the Gaston Browne government said that the measure regarding vaccinations will include workers in the Public Service, statutory corporations and companies in which the government owns majority shares.

It said that with effect from October 1, all unvaccinated public sector employees, inclusive of Statutory Corporations and companies of which the government holds majority shares shall be required to remain at home until proof of COVID-19 vaccination.

In addition, those workers “shall be paid a salary or wage for the period of non-compliance with the current policy” and that all officers and support staff of the Royal Police Force of Antigua and Barbuda and the Antigua and Barbuda Defence Force are required to be vaccinated, effective October 1st.

The government said that trade unions and employee associations shall be permitted to conduct educational awareness sessions via virtual and face-to-face engagements and that all COVID-19 protocols shall be strictly observed.

“All eligible students and teachers shall be required to be vaccinated against COVID-19 to return to face to face classes; All pre-school and primary school teachers shall be required to be fully vaccinated before returning to face-to-face classes; All caregivers and support staff are required to be fully vaccinated to provide services at elderly care facilities,” according to the policy.

It noted also that all arriving passengers including returning nationals and residents are required to have received at least the first dose of a vaccine approved by the appropriate authorities in Antigua and Barbuda.

The government also said that informal and or public gatherings will be restricted to members of the same household and that beaches are to be closed between 12:00 noon and 5:00 am (local time) daily commencing September, 20.

“Bus drivers, conductors and taxi drivers are required to be vaccinated effective October,1 this year and that failure to comply with the current policy will result in restrictions to operate;

“All pleasure craft fetes, parties and entertainment events and excursions around the coastal waters and offshore islands are suspended with effect from 18th September until 29th September 2021. Thereafter, only authorized excursion will be permitted by the appropriate authorities.”

The government said that all Vendors, merchants and service providers and staff operating at the ports of entry are required to be vaccinated.

But the authorities said that persons may be exempted upon submitting a medical certificate approved by the Chief Medical Officer or Medical Board or a request approved on religious grounds.

It said that all persons exempted under this policy are required to produce a negative COVID-19 test twice monthly.

Children under the age of 18 years, arriving at a port of entry in Antigua and Barbuda are exempt from this policy for this period;

“The Cabinet of Antigua and Barbuda recognizes the extreme hardship caused by the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic along with the pain and anguish of families due to untimely and unnecessary loss of loved ones. It has caused tremendous economic dislocations, social disruptions and psychological trauma.

“The government acknowledges the enormous commitment and sacrifices made the nation’s healthcare professionals and by extension all workers who lock arms daily in a colossal effort and determination to defeat the COVID-19 virus and help to restore this country to some form of normalcy,” the statement said.

It added that COVID-19 represents an existential threat and the government calls on the entire nation, private sector and public sector and civil society to lend support in this endeavor by adopting policies and promoting policies to arrest the effects of this deadly virus.

Antigua and Barbuda has recorded 48 deaths and 2, 304 infections from the virus since March last year.