By Orville Williams
There is no indication at this point that the authorities will be taking any action against the groups of persons who violated Covid-19 protocols during an event on Bird Island last weekend.
According to reports, large numbers of people gathered on the offshore island on Sunday, while multiple video recordings made the rounds on social media, showing persons violating both the mask-wearing and social distancing regulations.
Some sections of the society have called for sanctions against the perpetrators and while Information Minister Melford Nicholas acknowledged the breaches, he said sanctions do not appear to be forthcoming.
“That is in the discretion of the police high command and the enforcement agencies. When we give a signal that these areas are breaches, we expect the law enforcement authorities to respond, but they have to interpret based on the evidence that is before them.
“If they’re going to look at the few videos that are going around, it may not be feasible for them to just use a short 30-second video,” Nicholas explained.
“What we’re hoping is that with the increased surveillance that is going to take place, should there be any further attempt at that type of activity, they will be there to restrict it and to take the necessary action. [However] I don’t know that they are contemplating taking any punitive actions against those who had the party in the past week.”
The increased surveillance the minister spoke of will come in the form of collaboration between land and sea-based law enforcement agencies. The Coast Guard, he said, will work alongside the police force to increase vigilance and enforcement of the regulations.
The minister also addressed persons who may assume a ‘grey area’ in the beach restrictions, saying, “We have to remind the public that when we speak of the beaches being off-limits, it’s not necessarily restricted to the island of Antigua; it also includes the beaches on the offshore islands as well, and in Barbuda.”
He also took time to assure the country that the measures in place are only meant to be short-term, until the risk of the spread of Covid-19 is non-existent.
“We want to remind our public as well, particularly the young and the young at heart, that there is no willful intent on behalf of the government to restrict their freedom and to restrict their desire to [be] involved in social activity.
“The circumstances are pro tem [for the time being]; these are measures that have to be put in place in the short instance until we overcome the scourge of Covid,” he said.