By Machela Osagboro
Antigua and Barbuda has joined several nations across the globe by announcing a 24-hour curfew to halt the spread of the coronavirus.
In a virtual address to Parliament, Prime Minister Gaston Browne said Cabinet had “agreed to extend the curfew from 10 hours per day to 24 hours per day for the next seven days”.
He explained, “social distancing is the most appropriate solution to curbing the spread of Covid; there is no immunisation or cure. We noticed that the limited curfew is not working, the people are not taking the level of responsibility to contain the Covid virus,” he said.
The current state of emergency has also been extended to 60 days.
The lockdown will commence one second after 12am on Thursday April 2. Browne added that the current curfew, “continues in place as is; this evening the curfew time of 8pm remains in place. Come Thursday morning at 12am the curfew will be for a period of 24 hours per day for seven days for non-essential workers”.
The state of emergency announced on March 25 came with several stringent restrictions, prohibiting all but essential workers from operating. Essential workers were cited as doctors, nurses, soldiers, police and prison officers, seaport and sanitation workers, magistrates, bus drivers, media workers and utility workers. That list is now set to be revised further.
Browne said supermarkets would remain open but only a few patrons will be allowed in at any one time. He also said that all essential workers who travel by road will be given a mask to wear and be issued with an essential worker pass.
Residents are also being asked to wear masks and practice social distancing, which means keeping six feet apart.
Last week, public gatherings exceeding 25 persons were also banned. Gatherings have since been reduced to 10 after various violations, including one at a Bolans church and a party at Deep Bay beach last weekend.
“We have to go the extra mile to protect the population because we do not have the capacity to treat a large number of individuals,” said Browne.
The PM urged people to stay inside. Violators risk a $5,000 fine or six months in prison, or both.
The House of Representatives met virtually on Tuesday to allow the PM to lay on the table the first, second and third readings of the Emergency Powers (Dangerous Infectious Disease) Bill 2020.