Published on : Tuesday, May 4, 2021
In Antigua, Caribbean country, on a clear day, Uriah Gregory, a 43 year old, pulls his taxi van in front of a guest house. It’s painted in bright pink, purple and orange colors. Uriah steps out to help a woman who was carrying her luggage.
Gregory estimates that his taxi during pre-pandemic days brought in US$1,110 (RM4, 556) every month, transporting visitors during peak tourist season from resorts to restaurants and beaches on the Caribbean island. At present, he’s barely averaging US$110 (RM455) with few of those visitors in sight.
In the twin-island nation of Antigua and Barbuda, tourism plays an important role and contributes 60% of the GDP, making Gregory one of many locals living on a fraction of their typical income. The pandemic resulted in an 18% loss to the country’s GDP in 2020, as per Prime Minister Gaston Browne, and sent unemployment from single digits to over 30%.
As Browne in June reopened international borders, it took until the end of 2020, when a rush of bookings offered the first meaningful sight of the recovery of tourism for the consequences to crystallise.
All through last year, population of 100,000 of Antigua and Barbuda experienced just 159 confirmed cases and five deaths, giving the islands of 365 beaches the appearance of a safe haven.
This meant that only 1 out of 629 residents ever got infected last year; during the peak of the second wave in July, it would have taken Miami (Florida, in the United States) just three days to achieve roughly the same levels of virality across its population of six million.
Almost 15,000 travelers in December either flew or boated to Antigua and Barbuda, over doubling numbers from the month before. (Antigua is a convenient haven for east coast Americans, many of whom can get there via direct flights.)