Wed | Oct 21, 2020

Nation to welcome int’l passengers in June

Published:Wednesday | May 13, 2020 | 12:05 AM


Antigua and Barbuda says it will welcome its first international flight on June 4 since the island shut its borders as part of the efforts to curb the spread of COVID-19 that has killed nearly 300,000 people and infected four million others worldwide, since it was first discovered in China last December.

Tourism Minister Charles Fernandez, speaking during a virtual meeting on ‘Reopening Antigua and Barbuda For Tourism’, on Monday, said that an American Airlines flight from Miami is due to land on June 4, bringing the first set of international passenger flight in 10 weeks.

He said it will mark the start of a slow, phased recovery for the sector and is set to be followed by the Trinidad-based Caribbean Airlines (CAL) in mid-June and British Airways in July.

Fernandez said that the island would be seeking to ensure international confidence in the country’s ability to keep people safe, and that staving off a second wave of infections will prove crucial.

“Everything will be in place to ensure we don’t get a lot of negative press ... and beaten up on social media with people questioning whether we really are ready,” Fernandez said, noting that tourism officials had been hard at work for weeks so they can “hit the ground running”.

The authorities have not yet announced the date for the reopening of the VC Bird International Airport, but visitors may have to undergo a COVID-19 test at least 48 hours before boarding the flight, among other proposed measures.

“We are also looking at removing immigration booths when leaving Antigua and Barbuda, so we have less interaction and less gatherings of people. The idea is to get people in and out very quickly,” Fernandez said.

Fernandez told the meeting that all hotel staff will be tested for the coronavirus before going back to work. Uniforms will be laundered and collected on site and staff will be required to change into them on the premises before beginning a shift.

“When they finish, they will take off their uniform, leave it to be laundered, put back on their own clothes and go their merry way home,” he added.