By Carlena Knight
A day after parliament agreed to lift the state of emergency (SOE), Observer media took to the streets to ask the public for their thoughts on the controversial matter.
After debating the motion for several hours on Thursday, parliamentarians unanimously voted to remove the existing SOE, meaning residents and visitors will soon be freed from the shackles of the nightly curfew just in time for Christmas.
Many were relieved to finally hear the news, saying that the entertainment industry and other businesses in which some of them work will flourish even more.
“We live in a country where the nightlife only begins at a certain time. Most Antiguans don’t come out or go to a bar or party until 9, 10 o’clock at night so, with the curfew being lifted, it means that we will be able to open longer and that I will be able to make sufficient income,” said one person.
“I think it is a good thing because at least now businesses that had trouble getting customers would now get the chance to bring in more sales to pay off workers.
“A lot of us workers, either we were laid off or didn’t have enough money coming from our bosses and even now during the Christmas season, around this time people want to spend time with their families and friends and now they have the opportunity to do so,” another added.
Others had mixed feelings, mentioning that although they see the benefits of it being lifted, there are still a lot of risks.
“Yes, I am happy that I will be able to go and come as I please but at the same time I am worried about my safety. As a female, being out and having to always look over my shoulder because people will be wearing masks after midnight [concealing their identity], you just don’t know what may happen,” one woman explained.
“I don’t really have a major take on it,” said one person. “However, if lifting the state of emergency benefits the majority of the population then I am for it, but we have to be prepared in the event that cases rise that we will return to a state of emergency but I am just ready and waiting for competitive sports to return.”
Another person mentioned, “I believe that after being on lockdown for more than a year, we would tend to be more complacent in tackling the … spreading of the virus but on the other side, I think that this can allow entrepreneurs and other small business owners more opportunity to conduct their business.
“Being a fellow entrepreneur myself it gives me mixed emotions about the relaxing of the curfew.”
Meanwhile, for a few, it was neither here nor there, with one person saying it doesn’t “really bother me because I am always inside”.
“I don’t really care because at the end of the day, I am still protecting myself. I am still going to stay away from crowds so it doesn’t really matter to me if the place opens or not because Covid is still spreading,” said one man.
“It’s just a regular day, it never really affected me to begin with. I was saving a lot of money during that time but I do feel for those persons who weren’t working,” added another person.
The SOE will officially come to an end at midnight on December 23, after first being implemented in March 2020 – 21 months ago – as a means of mitigating the spread of Covid-19.
It was extended on numerous occasions, with the government maintaining that it was necessary to keep it in place to ensure they could restrict the movement of residents without being subject to any legal ramifications.
This constantly drew the ire of many across the twin island’s socio-political landscape, who insisted that the government was being unreasonable in keeping the SOE in effect, especially during times when Covid infections were low and the country appeared to be in a relatively safe situation.