ST JOHNS, Antigua – The Economic Recovery Committee (ERC) made up of 15 of the smartest men and women leaders from different sectors within the Antigua and Barbuda economy, and chaired by prime minister Gaston Browne, met virtually for the fourth consecutive meeting on Tuesday, May 26, 2020, from 3:00 pm until nearly 6:00 pm.
The ERC unanimously agreed that the time had arrived to re-open the borders of Antigua and Barbuda on June 1, 2020, allowing airlines to return and hotels to begin receiving guests.
On March 26, 2020, or exactly two months earlier, Antigua and Barbuda’s borders were closed to international traffic. The V.C. Bird International Airport and St John’s Harbour would not receive airplanes and ships because of the COVID-19 global pandemic. The economy of Antigua and Barbuda ground to a halt as the hotels closed their doors and more than 4,500 workers were laid-off temporarily.
The restaurants, shops, vending kiosks, bars and other places of entertainment were also closed, putting many more additional workers out of an income. Taxi drivers and bus operators were adversely affected as a curfew imposed limited travel, and reduced significantly the demand for transport services.
After two months of decline, the time has arrived to reset the economy, and to place it on a path of growth, the ERC declared.
The prime minister requested each member of the ERC to indicate if there was any disagreement or if there was unanimity. The 15 participants all agreed that opening the economy on June 1 met with unanimous approval.
On June 4, 2020, American Airlines will fly from Miami to Antigua, arriving at about 11:00 pm. The crew and aircraft will overnight in Antigua, and return the following day at about 2:00 pm. The bookings indicate that more than 75 percent of the passengers arriving on June 4, 2020, are likely to be nationals of Antigua and Barbuda. A trickle of tourists will also be on board.
New protocols have been articulated for both groups, involving quarantine and testing, using rapid tests that are 87 percent accurate.
The ERC expressed the view that a return to normalcy is desired as Antigua and Barbuda moves to a COVID-free status.
Only one person remains infected in Antigua and Barbuda. The ERC also recognizes that infected persons may travel to Antigua at some time in the future; however, the infrastructure to handle and effectively deal with all such cases has now been operationalized.