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By Shermain Bique-Charles

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Information Minister Melford Nicholas delivered a grim warning yesterday, as the country recorded eight new Covid-19 cases on Thursday and one death the day before.

The number of confirmed cases since the outbreak of the pandemic now stands at 184 with 22 active, and in light of this Nicholas said that restrictive measures will be strengthened across the country.

“While the risk associated with the populace [regarding] the spread of Covid-19 continues to be a challenge, we do not want the lax observance of the protocols to create an environment where we have a ‘super spreader’ event; we would be left with no other choice but to move towards a national lockdown once more,” he warned.

In the interim, the government has authorised three entities, namely law enforcement agencies to include the police and army, the Central Board of Health, and quarantine authorities, to formulate a list of new measures that will be issued early next week.

Meanwhile, Nicholas said that for the next 90 days, government will also prohibit access to all of the offshore islands.

“So, there will be no access. The Coast Guard and the law enforcement authorities will be required to restrict access to the offshore islands whether for moorings or parties on the island,” he said.

Nicholas confirmed the edict also applies to tour operators who regularly take guests to Antigua’s pristine uninhabited cays.

The protocols governing weddings and funerals have also been reverted, since many people are returning to the island to attend such events and are often those breaking the quarantine laws, Nicholas said during Thursday’s post-Cabinet press briefing.

“We are reverting back to a position where we want to have the number of persons at the burial site restricted. The number would fall back to the 25 that had been lifted before. Certainly, for weddings, we debated this at significant levels…we want to reduce the number down to 10 for those ceremonies,” he said, adding that the government would be seeking the support of the clergy to make a final determination on the matter.

 “We have relied on the very good support and compliance that we have seen in the churches to keep those numbers under control,” he added.

The police will also be working with the Central Board of Health, according to Nicholas, to ensure that bars and other places of entertainment adhere to all protocols, and the police will be seeking support from the army to “bring things under control,” he added. According to the latest information released by the Ministry of Health yesterday, 156 people have recovered from the virus to date, two are currently hospitalised, and 83 results are pending.