Sat | Nov 28, 2020

Parliament approves extension of curfew; Opposition concerned

Published:Thursday | October 29, 2020 | 12:07 AM


The Barbados parliament has given the green light to the extension of the current state of emergency to March 27 next year even as the opposition said that the Mia Mottley administration was sending a mixed signal regarding the efforts to curb the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19).

The initial state of emergency took effect in March this year, lasted for a period of six months, and Attorney General Dale Marshall said that having decided one month ago on the need to embark on another 30-day state of emergency, the government felt it best to extend it for a further five months to allow for the continuation of the COVID-19 directives to ensure Barbados remains a safe space.

Barbados has recorded 233 positive cases and seven deaths from the virus that was first detected in China last December and blamed for 1.17 million deaths and 44 million infections worldwide ever since.

The state of emergency that gives government power to implement any measures necessary in the interest of the country during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has been extended until March next year.

Marshall said that while Barbadians have returned to work and business, and entertainment venues have reopened, citizens needed to remember that “things are not alright and it will take a long time before things are alright”.

“As a government, and as a Parliament, we have an obligation to ensure that the structures that are needed to be in place to get Barbados safely over this chasm are in place. It is our constitutional responsibility to reflect on what has happened over the last six seven months and to consider whether it is appropriate for us to maintain the state of emergency for a further five months, to take us to the six [months],” he said.

But Opposition Leader Joseph Atherley told legislators that the government has been sending mixed signals to the country by extending the state of emergency while at the same time engaging in social activities which breach the COVID-19 physical distancing protocol.

“I have been seeing images of last weekend, Mr Speaker, in which some of the same voices in here were principals in hugging and feting and celebrating without any thought for physical distancing. You have seen that, Mr Speaker.

“I have not seen your image in any of those that I have seen, but I have seen images of others. You can’t stand and tell Barbados we have to keep our guard up, we must extend the state of emergency for six months,” the Opposition leader added.

“But those who are political leaders and the principal voices of Government hugging, congregating and churches can only do that if they observe the physical protocol, and you can’t lay hand on a fellow to pray for him because of the distancing, you can’t lay a hand on a child to dedicate that child to baptise that child because physical distancing protocols are in place, and wisely so, and necessarily so,” Bishop Atherley said.

In extending the Public Health Emergency Order, Marshall cautioned that at the end of March 2021, Parliament might have to seek a further extension, noting that statistics worldwide pointed to spikes in cases of the highly contagious virus.