By Government of Antigua and Barbuda, Office of the Prime Minister
ST JOHNS, Antigua – Antigua and Barbuda’s prime minister, Gaston Browne, has written to Britain’s prime minister, Boris Johnson, saying that “an appropriate response is necessary” for the damage done to his country’s small economy by a Public Health England (PHE) website posting that wrongly claimed “an Antigua variant” of the coronavirus had been discovered in the UK.
Browne proposed that the British government urgently consider recompensing Antigua and Barbuda by a donation of 100,000 doses of the AstraZenica vaccines.
In his letter, Browne told Johnson that “Antigua and Barbuda is highly dependent on tourism and has long been a favoured holiday destination for British tourists but the PHE notice, that went viral after it was picked up by international media, has caused hotel bookings to be cancelled”.
The Antigua leader said his country was already “reeling from the almost complete shutdown of tourism caused by the pandemic” and asserted that the PHE posting has “eroded confidence in the gains Antigua and Barbuda made in its management of the virus”. “We now have to redouble our efforts at great expense”, he said.
The Antigua and Barbuda prime minister drew Johnson’s attention to the fact that “no British visitor to Antigua had contracted COVID-19” in his country. He affirmed that his government has enforced strict protocols for managing the pandemic and has a comparatively low level of infections and a high level of recoveries. Prime minister Browne also stressed that the British High Commission to Antigua and Barbuda explicitly stated on March 13 that “there is no scientific evidence to determine where this variant first emerged” and that it regrated “any misunderstanding that may have arisen from the matter”.
However, Browne said that “the damage was done from the moment that PHE erroneously published the claim on its website. He has suggested to Prime Minister Johnson that “consideration should be given to recompensing Antigua and Barbuda with a donation of 100,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccines”. Antigua and Barbuda is one of over 150 nations that are struggling to secure vaccines at a time when the costs are high and more than 80 percent of them have bought by rich countries, including the UK.
Prime minister Browne remarked to UK prime minister Johnson that “Antigua and Barbuda has always cherished its close relationship with Britain” and he “looked forward to a favourable response to his proposal”.