The Covid-19 pandemic no doubt caused undue hardship to all the nations of the world. Not surprisingly, Antigua and Barbuda was one of the most affected in the world. While many nations tried to virtually boost their economy, Antigua and Barbuda could not because tourism which is the bedrock of their economy cannot be done virtually.
From 2010 to 2019, there have not been fewer than 770,000 tourists visiting the country each year. Interestingly, from 2017 to 2019 the average number of visitors that came to the country was 1.05 million people. The expectations for 2020 were high until Covid-19 struck. How did this deadly pandemic affect the economy, livelihood, health, and wellbeing of the Antiguans?
We met with Dr. Dario Item, Ambassador of Antigua and Barbuda to the Kingdom of Spain, the Principality of Liechtenstein and the Principality of Liechtenstein, who discussed the outcome of the pandemic with us.
Hello Ambassador Item. How are doing today?
Ambassador Dario Item: “I am fine as you can see.”
Quick one. How was the year 2020?
Ambassador Dario Item: “I will say it a year I will not like to go back to. It was a year that made us rethink our priorities, our goals, and our future.”
Can you tell us how life was in Antigua and Barbuda before the outbreak of Covid-19?
Ambassador Dario Item: “Life was great. Our economy was fine, we were having visitors on a daily basis, the boat cruise industry was doing great and we had little to worry about.”
How did your country get its first Covid case and how did the government react?
Ambassador Dario Item: “I guess it was on March 13, 2020, when Prime Minister Browne announced the first case of Covid in the country. The patient was believed to have contracted it in the United Kingdom. Immediately the government took decisive actions to curb the spread. On March 27, 2020, the government declared a partial curfew, and three days later, they extended it to a 24-hour curfew. That was the situation until the government decided to open its borders to international travelers who have tested negative to the virus on June 1, 2020.”
Can you tell us about the total cases the country had and how many deaths were recorded?
Ambassador Dario Item: “So far, we have recorded almost 2,700 cases and unfortunately, we have over 40 deaths.”
I am very sorry about that. What is the current rate of vaccination in the country?
Ambassador Dario Item: “Currently, we have almost 62,000 fully vaccinated citizens. That is somewhere around 62% of our entire population. Our goal is to vaccinate all our citizens in the shortest possible time.
At the moment, what are the Covid-19 related guidelines met for visitors coming into the country?
Ambassador Dario Item: “Interestingly, our country has opened its borders to visitors. All you need to provide is proof that you have been fully vaccinated. Once you are, there will be no need to provide a negative Covid-19 result at the Port unless you are having Covid-19 related symptoms. If you are not vaccinated, you will need to prove that you are negative of Covid-19. Once you show a very recent result to prove that, our country will be glad to have you.
What do you have to say to foreigners who will want to come over to Antigua and Barbuda at this time?
Ambassador Dario Item: “Antigua and Barbuda is a beautiful place and a unique tourist destination. The Covid-19 did not in any way affect the turquoise waters and the beautiful climate we have here. Once you can co-operate with the normal Covid-19 regulations that are being observed worldwide, then you can come over to our country. I am sure you will not want to go back.”
Thank you, Ambassador Item.
Ambassador Dario Item: “You are welcome.”
Are you still wondering if the Covid-19 virus should prevent you from coming to Antigua and Barbuda? If yes, then you should have a rethink. You will not only be welcomed by the receptive people of the country but you will also be welcomed by the 365 beaches, tall trees, amazing sights, and the beautiful climate of Antigua and Barbuda.