Barbados inched closer to a complete shutdown of the island tonight as Government took its toughest measures to date to try to stem the rapidly growing number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 on island. As a result, from Friday April 3, Barbadians will be confined to their homes except to leave to get money from the ATM, buy food and medicine, get medical care or go to work in an essential service.
While Prime Minister Mia Mottley is at home recovering from an as-yet-undisclosed medical procedure, Acting Prime Minister Santia Bradshaw, in a nationally televised announcement revealed that in addition to the 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew, greater day-time restrictions have been imposed to limit community spread of the new strain of coronavirus, COVID-19.
The measures have been triggered by a rapid rise in cases of the highly infectious form of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). Health officials today confirmed infections in 45 people after 382 tests over the past two weeks. But it is increasingly clear that many more people may be carrying the virus without symptoms or have begun to fall ill.
And in the battle to slow and halt COVID-19, which has killed over 47,000 people in 203 countries including five in Trinidad and four in Guyana, it will now be illegal for more than three people who are not related to assemble outside the boundaries of their homes. Hosting or attending private parties will be banned, and no club members can attend a club meeting. The sale of alcohol will be illegal, beaches and parks will be closed, and banks and credit unions can only operate their automatic teller machines (ATMs).
Of the most significant new measures announced by Bradshaw under the Emergency Management Act, one was with immediate effect: anyone entering the country from anywhere in the world will be held in Government quarantine for 14 days.
But to fight growing levels of gossip and stigmatization of those who either have or are suspected of contracting COVID-19, it is now illegal to transmit video or audio of or in any way publicly identify anyone in a quarantine or isolation facility.
In an emotional appeal from Ilaro Court, the Acting PM said Government was forced to introduce the enhanced restrictions “for the sake of Barbados” falling into a “calamity”.
Bradshaw said: “While we have been heartened by the response of the majority of Barbadians to these restrictions, we have also witnessed a significant number who have ignored them and have continued to put themselves, their families and the entire country at risk.
“And this reckless and irresponsible behaviour has continued in spite of the warnings from the COVID-19 Czar on Monday that the Government of Barbados was prepared to further extend and strengthen the restrictions should this behaviour continue.”
In a startling but vague revelation, Bradshaw said models produced by public health experts at the University of the West Indies do not paint an encouraging picture of the spread of infection and its consequences.
She disclosed: “We do not like what those models tell us regarding the extent of sickness and death that is likely, in light of the behaviour we are seeing across this country.
“We have throughout the course of our response been guided by the excellent public health specialists in the Ministry of Health and Wellness to whom the country owes an immense debt of gratitude and they are also concerned that we are fast approaching the point where the pressure of cases of COVID-19 will begin to outstrip our capacity to identify, trace and treat.”
Bradshaw, whose substantive portfolio is Education, Technology and Vocational Training, told the nation that Prime Minister Mottley, Leader of the Opposition Reverend Joseph Atherley, president of the Democratic Labour Party Verla DePeiza and the private sector, had been consulted on the tightened restrictions.
Violators of the new restrictions face a fine of up to $50,000 or a year in prison.