Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley.

Renuka Singh

Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley has made a case for keeping the 9 pm to 5 am curfew and for extended the State of Emergency (SoE) by an additional three months.

Dr Rowley yesterday defended the curfew period in a text exchange with Guardian Media, saying that it was necessary to reduce movement and congregating that could trigger a third wave of the COVID-19 virus.

“The curfew reduces mixing and congregation of people where it is not necessary to have such exposure 9:00 pm to 5:00 am,” he said.

Members of the business community, including the Chamber of Industry and Commerce, have asked for the curfew hours to be relaxed, with the Chamber suggesting that it begins at midnight instead of 9 pm.

“This approach is the most prudent in anticipation of the possibility and likelihood of facing a possible Delta virus challenge,” he said.

The Prime Minister said the curfew would also suppress the anticipated “freedom partying”.

“That is sure to follow any removal of the restrictions,” he said.

Dr Rowley also said that the extended curfew coupled with the continued vaccinations would give “us the best chance to support and sustain the gains we have made so far”.

The House of Representatives will break from recess on Wednesday to debate the motion for the extension which the Prime Minister will pilot and which can be passed with a simple majority, not requiring Opposition support.

Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar had issued a media release Friday saying that without the requisite data to support the extension, the move would be “disastrous”.

But the Prime Minister yesterday said it was necessary to maintain an “aggressive vaccination drive nationwide to have a larger proportion of the population vaccinated before we open up further”.

Dr Rowley said that the aim was to “get more children vaccinated so that they can get back to school once we hold or improve the infection levels and rate of infection”.

“Because we have already opened up so much of the country for economic activity and job re-establishments we have to balance that with strong restrictions in the lower priority areas,” he said.

“All of this is to be accompanied by the sanitizing, mask-wearing and of course the SOE enforces the “ no congregation” of a population that is weary of Covid,” Rowley said.

He said that the population, if not properly guided, could exhale and relax too quickly with one unwanted outcome.

“That is a return to a full lockdown in an inevitable third wave,” he said adding that some countries are currently tottering under a fourth wave.

“We must avoid that,” he said.

The Prime Minister announced the State of Emergency on May 15 and it is set to expire at the end of August. This extension now takes the SoE to November.

On Thursday Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi said that the SoE had borne a significant amount of fruit in that it has allowed an improvement in the bed availability at the parallel health facilities.

The AG said then that one provision in the SoE allowed for a broader category of person to administer the vaccines including medical and dental interns and vets.

Al-Rawi said that the existing Public Health Ordinance did not give as robust a structure as the State of Emergency regulations.

Since the announcement of the extension, various chambers have come in support of it but requested that the timing be adjusted to midnight to 5 am in order to give businesses more opening hours.

Al-Rawi said that the power to determine the hours of the curfew rests with the Prime Minister.

COVID-19 claims six more lives

The Ministry of Health announced yesterday that six more people had died from the virus, taking the number of deaths up to 1,225.

A further 71 have been infected.

Meanwhile, the number of first dose vaccinations moves closes to half a million, now standing at 483,269 with a further 367,691 having gone on to receive second doses.

At present, the country has hundreds of thousands of World Health Organisation (WHO)-approved vaccines – Sinopharm, AstraZeneca, Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson – available at mass vaccination sites and health centres across the country.

Personal & domestic services, real estate resume

Personal services, all domestic services and real estate services will resume operations today.

The Ministry of Health noted yesterday that spas, hairdressers, hair and beauty technicians and barbers can operate until further notice, Monday through Sunday.

“Operators, employees and customers of the personal services and real estate establishments as well as homeowners and domestic workers are advised to comply strictly with the (other) legal requirements of the Emergency Powers (No. 2) Regulations, 2021, the legal requirements of the Public Health [2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV)] (No. 18) Regulations, 2021 and the public health guidelines,” the Health Ministry said.