Three professionals – including Chief Health Inspector Sharon Martin – agree that unvaccinated cruise-ship passengers should remain on board their vessel and not be allowed to disembark here.
Antigua and Barbuda is getting set to welcome back several cruise lines, after the COVID-19 pandemic shut down the industry more than a year ago.
If persons who are not inoculated leave the ship and enter the general population, Martin says, they will put local residents at risk.
She says she has no issue with cruise ships returning, but only vaccinated tourists should be allowed to disembark the vessel.
Cruise ships are like a “Petri dish” for the spread of the virus, says Dr. George Roberts; therefore, the return of the sector will have to be carefully managed.
Meanwhile, Dr. Lester Simon, Head of the National Technical Working Group on COVID-19, fears there will be a “race to the bottom,” with islands competing to offer unvaccinated persons some special treatment.
Florida recently decreed that cruise ships cannot discriminate against unvaccinated persons.
Accordingly, the Cabinet of Antigua & Barbuda decided, last week, that local stakeholders – including taxi drivers, tour operators, store clerks, and restaurant workers – must be vaccinated in order to resume work in the cruise sector.
Many residents tell REAL News that the Cabinet decision is not only unfair, but reeks of “reverse discrimination” against nationals and residents, some of whom are unwilling to be vaccinated for health and religious reasons. Meanwhile, the Lambda variant of the COVID-19 virus – first detected in Peru last August – has been identified in neighbouring St. Kitts, while the Delta strain continues to spread rapidly across Europe and the United Kingdom.