Citing breaches, Montserrat upgrades 10-hour curfew to all-day

Premier of Monserrat Easton Taylor-Farrell (Photo: CARICOM

The Monterrat government has announced a 24-hour curfew on the British Overseas Territory, less than 48 hours after it had imposed a 10-hour night-time curfew in a bid to stop the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19).

Premier Easton Taylor-Farrell in a news conference conducted via Zoom on Saturday (March 28), said it was necessary to increase controls since there have been breaches under the 10-hour curfew and that the authorities have had to send eight more samples to the Trinidad-based Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) for testing.

He said the Cabinet had agreed that as of 6:00 pm (local time) on Saturday, Montserrat will go into a 24-hour curfew until April 14, and only one person per household will be able to venture out to conduct business at a time. He said even these trips should be limited to reduce the exposure to others.

The ferry and airport have been closed to all income visitors except for Montserratians, medical practitioners coming to assist the Ministry of Health, and for transport of essential materials.

Premier Taylor-Farrell said a financial package has been presented to the United Kingdom government for support for businesses and residents but cautioned that the government will be unable to completely cover all losses. He further assured that the government would aim to alleviate suffering where possible.

Taylor-Farrell said that the financial secretary has been instructed to roll out a first tranche of support to the most vulnerable and that there is presently no timeline on when residents and businesses will begin to receive access to the aid.

Governor Andrew Pearce, who has already noted that the five cases of COVID-19 here is the equivalent to 70,000 cases in the UK based on comparative populations, said that for the new budget year, London was adding EC$80 million and was also more willing to be flexible on the drawdown of the funds given the current crisis.

He said the pandemic was unprecedented in modern history and everyone needed to pull together and comply with the lock down.

Deputy Premier Dr Samuel Joseph said it was important to recognise that the government was now at the end of its financial budget cycle in March and reminded reporters that Montserrat does not have the ability to borrow funds as other independent countries do and they are also not able to run deficits.

“Tough decisions have to be made. We have cut programmes to allocate money to where it is needed most, health and people in need,” he added.

He said Montserrat will need much more than it can scrape together as March 31 draws near and that a request has been sent to the UK for additional support and the island’s ability to provide assistance will be dependent on their response.

He reiterated the need for everyone to eliminate unnecessary contact, adding dead people can’t spend money.

“The isolation was a necessary measure to let the people do their work and find the cases in order to curb the spread and get it under control over the next two to three weeks. It will drain the country of its finances and resources and our ability to respond if it drags on,” Joseph said.

Governor Pearce said the demand for equipment to deal with the crisis is high and the UK government is working down the list of needs from the Overseas Territories.

The Montserrat Secondary School is looking at online delivery for students in the lower forms. Currently the Ministry of Education is in discussions to acquire a software in collaboration with CXC and FLOW for delivering e-learning to students from primary to A Levels. This will need to be tempered with the knowledge that some students may not have internet at home or a device.