Customers wait in line outside the Port-of-Spain Central Market on Saturday. The measure has been put in place to limit the number of people inside to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Police Commissioner Gary Griffith says since the State of Emergency was implemented last weekend, more citizens have been leaving their homes during the non-curfew hours. However, he is urging citizens to desist from this type of behaviour, saying this is exactly what led to the recent surge and what the SoE is meant to prevent.

In an interview with Guardian Media yesterday, Griffith said the police have observed that more people are out on a daily basis.

“That is totally going to defeat the value and the purpose of the State of Emergency, because having a virtual ghost town during the night and then persons are then coming out en masse during the day, it means that the same concerns that we have about the virus spreading will just be intensified during the day period,” Griffith said.

Since the start of May, the virus has ravaged the country, with hundreds of new cases being recorded daily and deaths in the double digits becoming the new norm, resulting in the health sector becoming overwhelmed.

As a result of this trend during what is the third wave of the virus in T&T, the State of Emergency, which includes a curfew from 9 pm to 5 am, was implemented by the Government as a measure to curb the spread. All businesses, except banks, supermarkets, pharmacies and market stalls, are supposed to be closed since they are deemed non-essential under the SoE.

Speaking at a press conference on Saturday, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley said the lockdown measures, which were originally due to expire yesterday (May 23), will continue to July 4. The Government is also going to Parliament today to extend the SoE to a full three-month period, although Rowley said it would not necessarily be implemented for the entire period.

Public health officials have been pleading with citizens to stay at home for the past several weeks, saying that limiting interaction between family members and strangers limit the likelihood of the virus finding hosts to multiply and spread.

Police officers have also been on constant patrols trying to enforce the Public Health Regulations during the day and the SoE at night.

But yesterday, Griffith said the number of people outside during the day now far exceeds the numbers they had seen before the SoE was implemented. As such, he said the police are going to step up their game to deal with this activity.

“We continue to ask persons, you should only be out if it is you are providing an essential service as an employee or you are going out to acquire the products from an essential service. The police will be intensifying our patrols, our visibility, through possible roadblocks and other things,” Griffith said.

“I do not want to inconvenience those who have to provide an essential service or employees of essential services but we are seeing the numbers have drastically increased compared to pre-SoE.”

Griffith said the police will also be increasing their spot checks at banks, supermarkets and pharmacies to ensure that the public health guidelines are being adhered to. If businesses are in breach of the regulations, he said they will be shut down for the day.