By Carlena Knight
The national curfew – currently due to expire at the end of next month – will more than likely be extended for an additional 90 days.
This was the response from the Minister of Information, Melford Nicholas, on Friday when asked if Cabinet will be looking to remove the state of emergency due to the low number of Covid-19 cases in Antigua and Barbuda.
The twin island nation has been under a state of emergency for more than a year, with the government insisting it was the best way to institute the measures needed to curb the spread of Covid-19.
But, despite a marked dip in the number of virus cases in recent weeks, there seems to be little chance, according to Nicholas, that it will be removed since “the threat of Covid is still around”.
“I would imagine that the threat of Covid is still with us and so when we get towards the end of June, we may likely, during the course of one of these sessions in Parliament in June, make a determination to extend the state of emergency for another 90 days. It’s more than likely,” said Nicholas during the post-Cabinet Press briefing yesterday.
Nicholas said that the government cannot take a relaxed approach.
“Going from what Minister Joseph advised the Cabinet [on Thursday], notwithstanding the improved public health conditions and the environment, that we should not throw caution to the wind and become complacent.
“So, it is likely even though the risk of spreading Covid within the community would not have gone in a negative direction and we would have maintained that level of comfort and security within the society we would still want to have the option that if something should go bad or the perimeters change that we would have the ability to revert to enhanced curfew conditions which has worked so effectively since February to bring Covid under control,” he added.
These claims have been met on numerous occasions with scrutiny from not only members of the opposition but also the general public.
In fact, Leader of the Opposition in Parliament, Jamale Pringle, and Barbuda MP Trevor Walker both opposed the current extension, arguing that enforcing the Public Health Act (Dangerous Infectious Disease) would be just as effective as a state of emergency.
Pringle said he would not support any state of emergency for another three months while Walker added that he did not support “the mechanisms used to enforce these protocols”, reiterating that a state of emergency is too restrictive.
Current curfew restrictions run from 11pm to 5am daily.