Suriname President Dési Bouterse has announced a partial shutdown of the country as he blamed “gross irresponsibility” among individuals for the new cases of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) in the country.
In a special broadcast to the nation on Monday night (June 1), Bouterse said that with effect from Tuesday, there would be a 6:00 pm to 6:00 am (local time) curfew and that all gatherings would be for a maximum of five people only.
In addition, the government said the Stolkertsijve Bridge in the town in the Commewijne, linking the east and west of the country will be closed to human and vehicular traffic “in both directions, with the exception of necessary services, the health and safety authorities”.
Bouterse also announced that air traffic for passengers to and from the villages of Stoelmans Island, Drietabbetje, Godoholo, Cottica, Lawa Tabiki, Antino, Anapaike, Oelemarie, Gaakaba and Albina has been halted with immediate effect and that the borders will remain closed to people via land, water and air.
Bouterse also said earlier relaxation of measures had been reversed as of Monday.
“That is to say, schools will remain closed; nurseries will be closed every morning; re-opened markets will be closed again; and all businesses will have to go back to the highest precautionary measures. Casinos and catering will once again be closed to visitors,” he declared.
Bouterse said despite the fact that the borders were closed, individuals have “deliberately endangered us against all rules.
“We are now dealing – from the villages in the east to the city and the far interior – with the consequences of this gross irresponsibility. The health teams have immediately started checking contacts of infected persons. The preliminary field investigation shows that the new cases can mainly be traced to the eastern part of our country,” President Bouterse added.
The national COVID-19 management team has indicated that Suriname is in a Code Red status, meaning that the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) country was entering a new phase regarding the measures to deal with the pandemic.
“A phase in which we appeal to you again. In this phase, we place health, as well as the implementation of the will of the people, as absolute priority. In the next two weeks you will take your own responsibility to protect yourself and others”, Bouterse said, adding the aim is to ensure that the healthcare system is not overloaded.
Over the last weekend, Cleopatra Jessurun, the director of the Ministry of Health, reported that the country had recorded 11 new cases of the virus, bringing the number of active cases to 13.
A day later, that caseload has effectively doubled as Suriname confirmed another 21 cases, bringing the national tally to 44.
“This is very serious,” Jessurun told a news conference, urging people to wear masks and continue to follow the other measures such as washing hands and practising social distancing.
“Our capacity is already under considerable pressure. We expect more. More people will be tested,” she added.
Daniëlle Veira from the National Security Directorate said the new cases are not related to the movement of persons during the just concluded general elections.
A senior official of the National Army Forces, is among persons infected with the virus, according to the authorities, who said all of his close military personnel and colleagues have been quarantined in recent days.