St. John’s considers going to CARICOM over Bridgetown’s COVID-19 measures

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The Antigua and Barbuda government gave Barbados until the end of Tuesday to indicate why it was placed on a list of ‘medium risk’ countries for the novel coronavirus, COVID-19.

Minister of Foreign Affairs, E. P. Chet Greene, said Bridgetown’s failure to respond will leave St. John’s with no other option but to take the matter before the Caribbean Community (CARICOM).

Earlier this month, Antigua and Barbuda sought a response from the Mia Mottley administration as to why it was given ‘high risk’ COVID-19 status when its response and management of the virus has been “exemplary”.

Antigua and Barbuda has since questioned Barbados’ motivation for giving the country this classification.

Barbados has since revised Antigua and Barbuda to ‘medium risk’ status, but Greene says this still means that Antiguans and Barbudans visiting Barbados will still be required to submit to a 14 day quarantine.

“We have not written to or referred the matter to CARICOM as yet, but clearly, if by the end of the day this persists and the Barbados government insists on that particular position we will have to ask CARICOM to intervene,” Greene said.

“What we are asking primarily is an appreciation, an understanding, of exactly what standards you apply. We don’t know. If we know the standard is two cases per 100,000, then we will tell our population Barbados is a place to avoid because we are at six cases and therefore you have to go into quarantine, but not knowing what standards are being applied it makes it difficult for us to relate to our citizens to even ask the [Barbados based] US embassy for some kind of facilitations that will allow our citizens to be serviced,” Greene said.

“It is really vexing and I can understand the frustration of the population especially those persons who use Barbados for various reasons and in the context of CARICOM. It really does not bowl well for what the region speaks about so glowingly but in effect practice shows different,” he said.

Earlier this month, Bridgetown updated its own COVID-19 travel protocols which resulted in Antigua and Barbuda, Cayman Islands, Cuba, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Iceland, Japan, Martinique, Norway, Sri Lanka and the United Arab Emirates being identified as ‘high-risk’.

In agreeing to establish a travel bubble, countries in the region were guided by a comprehensive report from the Trinidad-based Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA). 

CARPHA also provided recommendations on how the bubble would operate and lay out the eligibility criteria for participating countries.

The recommendations included that countries would be categorised based on the  number of active cases per 100,000 of the population over a 14 day period from low, medium, high and very high risk. Additionally, only those countries with no cases, and those in the low-risk category, would be allowed to participate in the bubble without the requirement to quarantine. CARPHA was also given authority to assess relevant data in order to advise on participation in the bubble.