Antiguan PM promises ‘draconian actions’ after pastor is arrested for breaching SOE

Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda, Gaston Browne, has hinted at the possibility of more stringent measures to deal with the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) after a pastor and a member of his church were arrested by the police on Sunday.

Gaston Browne, the PM of Antigua and Barbuda, is upset that people are breaching the social distancing guidelines.

“We are very disappointed with the response thus far by certain irresponsible residents, who are violating our social distancing policy, to include limiting gatherings to 25. Also, we note the suicidal responses of some individuals of faith and their blatant disrespect for the laws of our country,” Browne posted on his Facebook page.

“Our collective efforts are required, to contain COVID-19.

— Browne

“We are now contemplating reducing social gatherings to 10 and to take more draconian actions, which will further curtail personal freedoms. This is a clarion call for personal responsibility by all to contain COVID-19.”

He wrote that “our collective efforts are required, to contain COVID-19 and protect the health of our nation, irrespective of our faith, ethnicity, nationality, or social standing,” adding “please respect the health protocols and the laws of our country.”

A police spokesman said that the pastor and the churchgoer are expected to be charged with violating the regulations under the limited state of emergency.

National Security Minister Steadroy Benjamin expressed disappointment at the situation where police said they clashed with members of the church after indicating that more than 25 worshippers had gathered on Sunday.

“The police were confronted by a group of persons who showed no regard whatsoever to the police in these circumstances. That is not acceptable. We are now in a curfew …and we want to make it clear to all and sundry regardless of where the gatherings are, this government will not permit any gatherings anywhere of any group which exceeds 25 persons”.