Declaring yet again she has no intention of shutting down the country, Prime Minister Mia Mottley on Friday evening announced additional public health restrictions designed to stymie a fresh surge of COVID-19 infections that include 29 children under age12 and another church cluster of 13 people.
Addressing the nation during a televised press briefing, Prime Minister Mottley said that while the existing 11 pm to 5 am curfew will remain intact, churches, some businesses and elderly care facilities would be subjected to two weeks of protocols, beginning Sunday.
“We are going to have to prohibit all visits to nursing homes and elderly care hospitals, senior citizens homes, the Geriatric Hospital, [and] the District Hospitals,” she disclosed.
Mottley said people would be allowed to drop off packages, which would be sanitized, but all visits must cease.
She said she has asked carers to exploring virtual visits to connect loved ones with patients.
“We don’t want to be deprived of the comfort of their families or pictures of their families,” said Mottley. “In fact, when I went to the Geriatric Hospital this week, I had to send a virtual hug and a selfie to a constituent of mine who is 102 years old and who recognised me and sent messages to me. So, I understand the emotion that goes with it, but I am asking us, for now, let us protect them and let us drop off the packages and do the electronic visits wherever possible.”
All church services, including funerals and weddings, will now be limited to 25 people and there will be a mandatory six-foot spacing for those sitting outside of their family bubble, she announced.
The Prime Minister said: “The length of the service or the ceremony will now be limited to 90 minutes as a result…. Similarly, meetings of fraternal societies, private or social clubs, civic associations…from Sunday, will be limited to 25 persons. Graduations and receptions will be prohibited for now…. This is not forever.”
She said she has already been informed by the Minister of Education Santia Bradshaw that most graduations have in fact been virtual and that this has gone down well with many people.
Bars and rum shops will be allowed to remain open, but the Prime Minister urged drinkers to have their beverages outside the shop.
“We don’t want consumption inside of the premises, wherever possible,” she said. “Let people come and buy what they want. If you have outdoor capacity that is well ventilated, by all means [consumption is permitted]. But we don’t want people standing up in the shop liming and drinking as they normally would have done in the past.”
Patrons who traditionally congregate inside bar and rums shops can step outside because the government continues to permit up to 20 people outdoors, she said.
Hikes are to continue, said the Prime Minister, but without socializing before or after the hike.
“We would prefer that hikes go off in groups of only a hundred persons,” said Mottley. “So if you had 200 in that hike, break it into two hikes. You know many hands make light work. So if we had 300 in the hikes, break it into three hikes and start in a staggered way. But what we don’t want is people socializing up under each other in large numbers after it and certainly not beyond the 20 that we referred to earlier.”
Pleasure craft are to continue at 50 per cent capacity and all indoor sport is prohibited at this time. Non-contact outdoor sport is allowed to continue.
On outdoor sport, Prime Minister Mottley announced: “The number of athlete participating in outdoor sports should be limited to 20 persons, but in the instance where that particular sport requires more than 20, like with cricket, for games or practice, the approval of COVID-19 Monitoring Unit must be given.”
The Prime Minister made clear her remarks were being directed at business owners, particularly those who were not enforcing the protocols as strongly as they should in lunchrooms, warehouses and in the precincts outside where people simply gather and talk.
“I [am] talking to employees who are not adhering to the protocols especially in those rooms that I just talked about, because you feel that you know somebody so well that you could take down your mask; but we don’t have a sign on us saying ‘COVID’…. We just can’t see it. So the only way you can protect yourself is by doing it yourself and making sure that you treat yourself as being COVID-positive and everyone else around you as being COVID-positive.”
She appealed to residents who engage in leisure time activities such as beach and outdoor sports not to let their guard down, while at the same warning the country that the fight against the virus was now a marathon that cannot be fought with a sprint.
Mottley also had a special message to all churchgoers, in light of the discovery of three church clusters.
“For those who are still among the numbers going to church, we ask you to adhere to the social distance, adhere to the reality that if you are singing, there is a greater likelihood of this,” she said. “I can’t tell you not to sing, but I can tell you, for example, that you have to make sure that the distances are there and wherever possible if we can use recorded music, let’s use it.”
She again cautioned homeowners that large numbers of visits from family members could cause problems, particularly where people feel more relaxed and let their guard down. Mottley also pointed out that even family members who have been vaccinated should also wear their masks.
The Prime Minister was adamant that the proper wearing of masks, physical distancing, sanitization and vaccination are the weapons that would help the country overcome the newest surge in COVID-19 cases and allow citizens to return to as close to a normal life as possible.