The Democratic National Alliance (DNA) calls on the government of Antigua and Barbuda to immediately cancel the 2020 Sailing Week activities given the rapid daily escalation in the number of persons infected globally by the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. We are aware that participants in our annual sailing regatta traditionally come from countries in which the disease has not been contained and infections are growing at an alarming rate.
The DNA is of the concerted view that the health and wellbeing of the people of Antigua and Barbuda outweigh any considerations of actual or perceived economic benefits which may be derived from the hosting of the event. Consequently, we urge that common sense, global best practices, responsibility and maturity prevail among the members of the Cabinet and that a decision to cancel sailing week guided by medical technical advice be taken.
While we commend the measures and best practices being taken by the government to date, as recommended by the PAHO and WHO, to ready the nation to respond to any potential outbreak of COVID-19, we are keenly aware that our health facilities are likely to become overwhelmed and unduly burdened should a mass number of persons become infected during the sailing regatta. Specifically, the isolation and quarantine facility to be located at the compound of the Holberton Hospital remains incomplete with mere weeks to the official commencement of sailing week. Further, there are other critical issues to be put in place, namely the equipping, outfitting and staffing of the facility. Of equal concern is the fact that that there is not yet available on island a testing facility to diagnose suspected cases of infection and samples are still required to be sent overseas for testing to countries grappling with their own domestic cases. Likewise, the additional challenges to our coast guard services is incalculable.
Given the totality of the existing challenges facing our country to redress efficiently a potential mass outbreak of COVID-19, we urge the government to embrace the adage “to be better safe than sorry”.