Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley has announced a further ease in COVID-19 restrictions, including major adjustments to the curfew.
In an address to the nation this evening from Ilaro Court, Prime Minister Mottley explained the decision was taken based on consultation involving Cabinet and its Sub-Committee on COVID-19, the Barbados Association of Medical Practitioners, the University of the West Indies, the Social Partnership and other key stakeholders.
According to her, the authorities were satisfied with the steady decline in the positivity rate, which has been “largely below two per cent over the last two weeks”.
“When last we spoke, I promised you then that we would look at certain things once the positivity rate remained largely below five per cent…. I think there was one day when it went over five per cent, but other than that it has been two per cent and trending down to one per cent and a few days actually below one per cent,” she stated.
Praising Barbadians for “rising to the occasion to fight back this pandemic” over the past months, she said the time had come for Government to make certain adjustments to allow persons to be “more comfortable not only in terms of where they work, but also in terms of the other things they need to sustain their body and soul”.
It is against this background that she revealed that under a new Emergency Directive, which will take effect from April 12 and run until April 26, “there will be no curfew on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays”. However, she said there would be a reduced curfew from 11:00 p.m. to 5:00 a.m. on Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.
Prime Minister Mottley stated that gyms would be permitted to reopen next week, with strict health and safety protocols in place.
Beaches and parks will open from 5:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. for recreation, but picnics and parties remain prohibited as authorities are still “trying to avoid large gatherings and people mixing in ways that would cause the gains of the last three months to be compromised”.
She said bars would also be allowed to operate at 50 per cent capacity, but the hosting of parties, karaoke or any such activity is forbidden. However, nightclubs, theatres, cinemas are to remain closed, and bus crawls and excursions are still prohibited.
The Prime Minister added that retail stores and supermarkets would remain closed on Sundays.
Meanwhile, fast food restaurants will be permitted to have persons in-house, but in addition to health and safety protocols, “the recording of the data on patrons entering the establishment must also be adhered to”.
Ms. Mottley revealed that under a new Emergency Directive, which will take effect from April 11 and run until April 26, “there will be no curfew on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays”. However, she said there would be a reduced curfew from 11:00 p.m. to 5:00 a.m. on Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.
As it relates to churches, the 75 person cap for services has been removed, but the Prime Minister said they would still be required to ensure that members of the congregation observe social distancing of six feet.
“Mask wearing will continue at all times as happens elsewhere. The churches were already doing an excellent job in recording and adhering to the protocols before. We recognise that if we adhere to the ratio of the six-foot distancing that we will be in a position to have in larger churches more than 75 persons, and therefore, they should be so allowed to do,” Ms. Mottley explained.
A maximum of 100 persons would be able to attend funeral services and wedding ceremonies, once the protocols, particularly that of social distancing, can be observed.
With regard to the hosting of wedding receptions, the Prime Minister made it clear that parties were not allowed, but said persons could host dinners or lunches to celebrate their unions.
“We will permit meals to celebrate the fact that persons have come together in marriage and we hope that will suffice. We ask you to leave the dancing and partying for another time.”
Small pleasure craft will also be permitted to operate with a capacity of 50 per cent. However, operators of water sports vessels will also be allowed to operate while larger party boats would have to wait a bit longer before they are given the green light, and the Prime Minister noted that she had met with the relevant stakeholders.
The halt on contact sporting activities is still in place, and Ms. Mottley said she would be meeting with the various organisations within the next two weeks “to see how we can return to a level of normalcy”.
“It may well be that we start with a framework that allows training and games, but without spectators at this point in time,” she added.
The Prime Minister also urged persons to continue to take precautions, noting that they should not allow the recent gains made to be eroded by complacency.