As the number of COVID-19 cases in Guyana continues to climb, the caretaker APNU/AFC Government has announced a 12-hour daily curfew, among other measures, for the next month to tackle the further spread of the deadly virus.
This was contained in a series of emergency measures rolled out on Friday by Public Health Minister, Volda Lawrence, who was bestowed sweeping powers by caretaker President David Granger on the Public Health Ordinance issued last month.
An unsigned notice from the Minister states that the measures took effect from Friday, April 3, 2020, and will last for one month, “unless earlier terminated, extended or amended by notice of the Minister of Public Health after an assessment of the prevailing public health conditions.”
The emergency measures state, “A curfew is hereby imposed throughout Guyana from the 3rd April, 2020 to 3rd May, 2020 between the hours of 6:00 pm and 6:00 am.”
It also includes directives to stay at home, stating that “every person shall remain in the confines of his or her home and its yard space” except or as otherwise provided.
According to the notice, all persons employed within the public service, a statutory body or a State-owned enterprise shall work remotely from home, except as may otherwise be directed by the Public Health Minister, acting on the advice of the responsible Ministers and Heads of Agencies.
With regards to essential services, the Minister said these will carry on with 24-hour operations. These include hospitals, healthcare and medical services including pharmacies, drug stores and private veterinary services; nursing homes, orphanages, shelters and other related care centres; immigration; Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA); electricity services; water supply services; the Disciplined Forces; Guyana Prison Services; solid waste management, sewerage and janitorial services; air traffic control (ATC); the Demerara Harbour Bridge and Berbice River Bridge; hotels and accommodation; and factories, manufacturers or distributors of food supplies and essential goods including medical supplies where the Minister of Public Health has determined that the continuation of these operations do not pose a risk to public health.
Telecommunications and media are also included in the essential services category.
Other essential services
Other essential services such as banks, markets, supermarkets, fruits and vegetable stalls and neighbourhood shops, food services and restaurants only for delivery, drive-thru and take away services, and gas stations are to be only open between 06:00h and 17:00h.
“Any service not listed… may only continue their services if their employees can work exclusively from home,” the notice states.
Moreover, these services mentioned are guided by strict social distancing and physical distancing protocols, which they need to make the necessary arrangements to facilitate.
According to Lawrence, they have to: ensure that all staff and other persons maintain physical distancing of at least six feet in or outside of their establishment, if in a line to enter the establishment; determine the number of persons that may be permitted in the establishment at any one time by permitting one person for every 30 square feet of space; place distance markers at least six feet apart, indicating where each customer shall stand in a line at a checkout point or other line; place distance markers at least six feet apart on the outside of the establishment, indicating where customers shall stand while waiting to enter the establishment.
Meanwhile, restrictions were also placed on all social activities at private parties; sporting event; a banquet, ball or reception; bar or rum shop; the seawall; a pool, creek or river; a wake or vigil; gym; beauty salon or spa; club or discotheque; and meeting of fraternal society, private or social club or civic association or organisation.
As it relates to weddings, no one other than the bride, the bridegroom, official witnesses and the marriage officer is to be present. While for funerals, no more than 10 mourners, one officiant and the funeral director and the necessary staff shall attend.
For religious worship, except for the conduct of funeral services and weddings, all churches and places of religious worship including mosques and temples shall be closed. However, this does not “prohibit any religious worship by virtual or electronic means provided that if virtual or electronic worship is being carried on in the place of worship the number of persons in that place shall not exceed five persons and the social distancing of six feet between persons shall apply.”
Restrictions were also placed on visitation to any quarantine or isolation facility; a prison or correctional facility; and patients in a hospital, nursing home, senior citizens’ home or any other care facility.
With regards to travelling, the two international airports remain closed to all overseas flights except for outgoing flights, cargo flights, medical evacuation flights, technical stops for fuel only and special authorised flights. However, for domestic travelling whether by land, water or air, those means of transportation are required not to carry more than half the number of passengers, which the motor vehicle, vessel or aircraft are licensed to carry. All operators and passengers are also required to have personal protective equipment.
The notice further outlined that a motor vehicle, vessel or aircraft shall not be used for a purpose other than for those ‘essential services’ mentioned above.
The caretaker Minister has also given the Guyana Police Force powers to stop any motor vehicle, vessel or aircraft and inquire as to the purposes for which that motor vehicle, vessel or aircraft is being utilised, and may arrest anyone found in violation.
For medical evacuation flights, only the patient, one health official and, where necessary, one family member is allowed in the aircraft.
According to the caretaker Minister, anyone who fails to comply with any of these measures commits an offence under Section 152 of the Public Health Ordinance and is liable on summary conviction to the penalty provided under that Section.