THERE will be increased roadblocks throughout TT as part of the immediate police response to the Prime Minister’s announcement that as of midnight on Saturday the country is under a State of Emergency (SoE).
Police sources said they will issue curfew passes to essential workers to move about during curfew hours from 9pm-5 am. The curfew will become effective from 9pm on Sunday to 5 am on Monday.
The police, assisted by the Defence Force, will now operate on “red alert,” senior police sources said. (The highest level of the tiered system is black alert, at which all police officers are called out, including those on vacation.)
Red alert, Police Commissioner Gary Griffith has said in the past, will see “law-abiding citizens experiencing some inconvenience.”
At the Diplomatic Centre, St Ann’s, on Saturday, Dr Rowley said the State of Emergency is aimed at decreasing the alarming uptick in covid19 cases and deaths.
“Ladies and gentlemen,” he said, “we will do what we have to do today to further minimise the infection and we are expecting, with a population that is now even more responsible, now is the time to take it serious, personal, and take it home.”
Rowley said the Attorney General will list the specifications of the SoE geared at limiting the spread of the virus, which for this month alone has killed 107 people of the 276 overall death toll.
He said the country has been engaging in a balancing act of lives and livelihoods for some time and now “the life side on that see-saw, we will put a little more emphasis on that.”
He said essential services, such as national security, health, public transport, the energy sector, utilities and food, are unaffected by the SoE.
He called on the public not to panic, but to allow common sense to prevail, and not be outside unless absolutely necessary. He also called on the population to be responsible, reasonable, co-operative and safe saying the more the country co-operates, the shorter the inconvenience of an SoE will be.
Asked how long the State of Emergency will last and what measures will be in place to protect citizens from abuse, Rowley said: “None of us in this country have ever been in a SoE in a pandemic. Take that, use that as your guide. This is not a comparison of another SoE. This situation calls for this, and the length of it will be determined by the response that we get. The more co-operative we are, the shorter the period will be.”
TT last had a State of Emergency in 2011, called to address the increased crime rate. Rowley, who was then Opposition Leader, strongly criticised that move. He has previously stayed away from declaring a State of Emergency to fight the pandemic, saying then that all it did was suspend the rights of citizens, but did not affect covid19.
He said an SoE would quell growing comments about the legality and or lack thereof of police officers entering private residences to end gatherings, which were contributing to the exponential increases and the parallel health care system’s being at the brink of full capacity.
TT is not the first country to call an SoE to tackle the virus. Many Caricom countries have implemented SoEs or emergency powers in an attempt to curb the spread of the pandemic. Some countries have extended SoEs, in some cases more than once. They include Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Barbados, Bahamas, Belize, Grenada, Dominica, Guyana, Jamaica (in various parishes), Haiti, St Kitts and Nevis and St Lucia.
Rowley said that there are some who did not respect the public health ordinances as they ought to, but will respect the State of Emergency.