ST JOHN’S, Antigua and Barbuda, Monday March 16, 2020 – All schools in Antigua and Barbuda closed today, while classes at the University of the West Indies (UWI) Five Islands Campus have been suspended, in an effort to mitigate against the spread of the novel Coronavirus (COVID-19).
There has been one confirmed case of COVID-19 in the twin-island nation.
In a statement issued today, the Ministry of Education said all public and private educational institutions will close until March 27. It added that, if necessary, that may extend beyond the Easter vacation.
However, school leadership, teachers, cleaners, security, and all other staff were instructed to report to work today and tomorrow, and possible Wednesday if necessary, to implement COVID-19 protocols to work remotely and prepare schools for cleaning and environmental adjustments for eventual return.
All schools are to be equipped with additional hand-washing stations, soap, and hand sanitizers for the eventual reopening.
The Ministry of Health also advised parents to “rigorously manage the whereabouts” of their children and to avoid gatherings of more than four or five people.
Meantime, classes at the University of the West Indies (UWI) Five Islands Campus have also been suspended until March 27.
But Prime Minister Gaston Browne says the twin-island nation has no plans to close its borders as other countries have done, as it could be economically detrimental.
He said in an interview on local radio over the weekend that the best approach would be to manage the risk.
Apart from the single case in Antigua and Barbuda, there are confirmed cases of COVID-19 in several other Caribbean countries, including: Aruba, the Bahamas, Cayman Islands, Cuba, Curaçao, the Dominican Republic, French Guiana, Guadeloupe, Guyana, Martinique, Saint Barthelemy, St Lucia, Saint Martin, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Puerto Rico, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago and Venezuela.
The total number of COVID-19 cases and deaths outside China, where the outbreak began, has now overtaken the total number of cases in that country. As of today, the World Health Organization said there were 81,077 confirmed cases and 3,218 deaths in China and 86,434 confirmed cases and 3,388 deaths in 151 other countries.