By Elesha George
New restrictions to reduce the spread of coronavirus are currently in effect in Antigua and Barbuda and they include hefty penalties for businesses and individuals that flout them.
Persons run the risk of being charged $5000 or spending six months in prison if they operate outside of the regulations which came into effect on Friday at 8pm and will continue until 5am on Friday, February, 19th, 2021.
During that time, no bar or club is allowed to operate while other non-essential businesses are restricted to operation within a mandatory nine-hour curfew period which starts at 8pm and ends at 5am each day.
According to the regulations, “A person who opens, operates, or permits the operation of a bar or night club during the effective period commits an offence and is liable on summary conviction to a fine of $5,000 or to imprisonment for 6 months or to both such fine and imprisonment.”
Restaurant operators are not allowed to permit “in-house” dining services, and those operators whose establishments are certified and approved as Covid compliant may only offer pick-up or take-out services.
Excursions to the off-shore islands by commercial vessels are permitted provided social distancing protocols and the wearing of face masks are observed.
Law enforcement officers have been authorised to disband any gatherings, and no person is to host or attend any private or public gathering or event having more than ten (10) persons.
There are slight modifications for some occupations to include registered livestock and vegetable farmers who are permitted to operate between the hours of 4am and 8pm daily, and licensed fishermen are permitted to operate between 2am and 8pm.
The wearing of masks and social distancing by every business owner, staff and officer of every business, and every customer or client of a business is expected while inside business establishments.
In addition to general rules for businesses, passengers and operators of the public transport are to wear a face mask for the duration of the journey. No other restrictions have been placed on these operators.
While recreational sports like basketball and football will not be allowed, physical exercises like walking, jogging, running and cycling are permitted to continue.