For the first time in Barbados’ modern history, its people have been placed under a protocol of restricted movement and closed business operations.
The country has been placed under a public health emergency to halt the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. All businesses in Barbados, except those deemed as essential services, were to be closed for two weeks from 8:00 pm Sunday night (March 29).
As at Monday (March 30), the island had confirmed 33 cases of the coronavirus.
Attorney General Dale Marshall made the announcement in the House of Assembly yesterday, on the heels of Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley’s announcement Thursday night that Barbadians would be placed under curfew between 8:00 pm and 6:00 am every day from last night until April 14.
Expanding on the terms of the curfew as outlined by the Prime Minister, Marshall said: “This decision means that with the exception of a few instances, all businesses are closed in Barbados from 8 p.m. Saturday 28 until April 14.”
He added: “This is not a curfew to maintain law and order; this is a period during which we are going to severely and in a compulsory way restrict human activity, plain and simple.” Only essential service providers such as police, firefighters, paramedics, utility and telecommunications companies’ employees, medical health personnel and media workers are exempt.”
Private agencies can apply to Attorney General Dale Marshall for special leave to work within the curfew.
Head of the Barbados Private Sector Association (BPSA) Edward Clarke is hoping the period will not have to be extended since any extension could have a debilitating effect on the economy for the rest of 2020.
Marshall indicated that Government, recognising its overriding obligation to keep Barbadians safe at this time, has triggered Stage 3 of the National Pandemic Preparedness Response, of which a shutdown of the island is essential.
Marshall said churches will be closed except where there is a funeral or wedding, and there are stipulations for those. He stated that for funerals no more than 10 mourners will be allowed, along with the officiant, the funeral director, and necessary staff; while for weddings, the numbers are limited to the bride, the groom, official witnesses, and the marriage officer.
The AG revealed that anyone who breaches the stipulations of the Emergency Management Order, without reasonable explanation, could be fined $50,000 and/or spend 12 months in prison. His comments came during the debate to amend the Emergency Management Act.
The order, which was approved, gives the Chief Medical Officer the responsibility to manage the country’s response in this public health emergency. The act, in its original state, gave the powers in the event of a physical natural disaster to the Director of Emergency Management.