Exemptions will be granted for businesses that provide services for essential enterprises, only in cases of emergency.
That was the response of Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Dale Marshall, as he addressed questions on today’s Down to Brass Tacks Call-in programme on Starcom Network.
Noting that he received over 200 requests for exemptions in the last 24 hours, Mr. Marshall said there were some cases where exemptions would need to be given. But, he warned, granting too many would defeat the purpose of the shutdown now being enforced under the Emergency Management (COVID-19) Curfew Directive, 2020.
Under the Order, a curfew is in effect from Saturday, March 28, until Tuesday, April 14, while all businesses, except essential services and those identified, were ordered close as Government seeks to contain the spread of COVID-19.
“Everybody is going to have to suffer. If my car tyre blows out or bursts today, I have no way of fixing it because the car tyre people are closed,” Mr. Marshall told callers.
However, he noted that there were some in the motor vehicle industry who requested exemptions because they did work for the Barbados Fire Service and the Barbados Ambulance Service.
“Those are essential services … and we are prepared to give exemptions if something urgent arises so that you can fix that need. But I can’t allow a motor vehicle business to open just because among the million things they do, they also provide parts for ambulances,” the Attorney General pointed out.
He stressed that while everyone wanted to find a reason to be open, Government just could not entertain such. “We are saying that if there is situation at the hospital, if there is a situation in the ambulance service, if there is a situation that will affect how the police function and respond, we will give exemptions limited to those things alone,” he further explained.
Mr. Marshall also stated that Government recognized that bakeries would have to start earlier and had therefore agreed to allow them to operate from 6:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.
“We hope that people will honour the spirit of what we’re trying to do, and try their best to work within the times stipulated,” he said, while reiterating that hardware stores were to remain closed during the shutdown.
He emphasized that businesses in certain categories would also be allowed to open. Those include those involved in the provision of health care, pharmaceutical manufacturers, pharmacies and food producers.
“Remember all at all times our mission is to reduce human to human spread. We are telling people to stay at home,” he stressed.
He added that Government would not tell a bodywork man that he could not work on the car parked alongside his house.
“While we are closing businesses, we are saying to them, we have to close your physical presence in the market place so that your employees will stay home, and your customers will stay home ….
“We have to differentiate what we’re doing is closing businesses. We are not stopping people from doing their own thing. A man who is building his own guard wall is not engaged in a business. An electrician who is fixing somebody’s air conditioning unit in a workshop, we’re not going to be policing that.
“On the other hand, if that repairman is bringing to his staff, that is a no, no,” the Minister stressed.
He further noted that Government was encouraging all businesses whose physical presence was closed, to let their employees work from home. “We are closing your physical space, but we are not shutting down your operation, if you can do it remotely,” he said.