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By Latrishka Thomas

A number of law enforcement officials will be placed on a Covid-19 surveillance task force as the Ministry of Health seeks to clamp down on residents who violate safety protocols.

During a press conference yesterday, Minister of Health Molwyn Joseph disclosed that these officers’ sole responsibility will be to conduct surveillance to detect non-compliant residents.

He said that in the first few months after Covid-19 was detected in Antigua and Barbuda, compliance was at a high, but since then there has been some “slacking off”.

“We are going to be integrating another level of surveillance which involves the police force more directly working alongside with the surveillance team in the Ministry of Health.

“I spoke with the Attorney General this morning and he has agreed to assist the Ministry of Health with dedicated police officers whose assignment would only be to assist the Ministry of Health in keeping strict surveillance of people in quarantine,” Joseph announced.

The Health Minister said that consideration is also being made to increase fines and penalties.

“I think that there is contemplation for an increase in the fines which will be announced so that people will understand that they have a duty, not only to protect themselves, but to protect the public as well,” he stated.

Joseph made those pronouncements as he recalled that just recently a woman who tested positive for the coronavirus left quarantine to go to a bar where hundreds of patrons would have visited.

The minister said that he is waiting to see what the police’s decision is on the matter, but believes that such a dereliction of duty should be penalised.

“We want to see action taken … people who are irresponsible should pay,” Joseph said.

He also reiterated that “bars and restaurants continue to be the highest risk environment for Covid in Antigua and Barbuda”, and warned that just as in the United Kingdom, “if you do not control transmission of Covid, Covid will close you down”.

Joseph joined with the Chief Medical Officer Rhonda Sealey-Thomas in appealing for commitment to compliance from every resident of Antigua and Barbuda.

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