The Dominica government Tuesday announced a series of new measures aimed at curbing the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, including a curfew and increased fines for persons not adhering to the Public Health Act as the authorities deal with a cluster of cases arising from two events held recently.
“We will be accepting no nonsense in the country over the next seven days and beyond,” Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit said, adding “the penalty for people who fail to comply with this order has been increased to EC$5,000 (One EC dollar=US$0.37 cents).
“These measures are not intended to scare the population but to ensure that we act quickly to avoid a deterioration of the situation,” Skerrit said in an address to the nation, interrupting the closing debate of the 2021 national budget in Parliament.
Skerrit said that PCR and other tests carried out on Sunday as a result of the two public activities had showed that “an individual or individuals had entered the country illegally and took part in a bikers’ activity along with a Jam at a location in Pottersvile”, on the outskirts of the capital on July 25.
He said that testing done by the Ministry of Health on Monday indicated that “to date there are 10 confirmed cases associated with this event, plus two imported cases, bringing the total number of active cases in Dominica to 12”.
Skerrit said that 14 of the individuals who received Rapid Antigen Tests had also tested positive.
He warned that this cluster of cases “is quite different from other clusters, mainly because a number of the people who have tested positive and their contacts are presenting flu like symptoms (and) this makes the virus much more contagious.
“Therefore to reduce the likelihood of further infection, the Ministry of Health has recommended some measures which the Cabinet has accepted,” Skerrit said, noting that they go into effect immediately.
He said the measures include a curfew that would be in effect from 6 p.m. to 5 a.m. (local time) daily for the next seven days in the first instance.
“However, in the case of the weekend, the curfew will begin at 5 p.m. on Saturday and will continue throughout the day on Sunday and end on Monday August 9, at 5 a.m. Curfew will then resume the night of Monday, August 9, at 6 p.m.,” Skerrit said.
Prime Minister Skerrit said that all non-essential businesses are to remain closed and that essential workers, as well as people entering or leaving the country and those conducting banking by appointments among others will be allowed to move about.
He said businesses that will be allowed to operate will do so between the hours 6 a.m. to 4 p.m. but must implement the various protocols including wearing masks and adhering to social distancing.
“All bars and nightclubs will remain closed. There will be no dining in at restaurants, take out only, no consumption of alcohol in the public, churches and other places of worship are to remain closed.
“Weddings are to be limited to five individuals, while funerals are to be no more than 10 individuals,” Skerrit said, adding that private parties, recreational and social events, group tours and loud music will not be permitted.
He said also there would be no visitations to the hospitals, prisons, infirmary or quarantine facilities or any home providing care for the elderly and children.
He said while the air and seaports will remain open “masks are mandatory by law and the police will be authorised to give you a ticket if you are seen not wearing a mask in the public.
He said he was making a special appeal to the people who are contacts of the individuals who have tested positive for the virus, or for individuals who had attended any of the two events to come forward and get tested.
“We remind all individuals to remain vigilante and adhere to the COVID-19 protocols,” he said reiterating the need for citizens to get vaccinated in order to save lives and prevent the spread of the virus.
In his broadcast, Skerrit said he was disappointed that front line workers had been receiving “much hostility and abuse by a few contacts and their families.
“We as a country must condemn this behaviour. These officials are working hard to protect us as a country and the least we could do is to be cordial and cooperative. We must all as responsible citizens play our part and adhere to the measures and protocols,” Skerrit said.
He said if everyone complies with the new rules and regulations over the next seven days “we can re-open the country fully thereafter”