There has been some confusion within the public following the Prime Minister’s announcement of ease on restrictions yesterday. The confusion seems to stem from the fact that the State of Emergency is being extended but the restrictions are being relaxed. As we noted yesterday the two are not one and the same. Today Attorney General Michael Peyrefitte took part in the Government’s webcast, Ask the Expert, to explain and simplify what is happening. For context, Peyrefitte, started from the beginning when the State of Emergency was first declared.
Hon. Michael Peyrefitte, Attorney General of Belize: ” If you can recall there was a state of emergency with regulations and rules just for San Pedro in the beginning, it’s when we discovered that the first and second case were in San Pedro. So there was a state of emergency and rules just for San Pedro, just for Ambergris Caye. Then the situation got a little more intense in the city to the point where we decided to suspend that San Pedro rules and regulations and institute a set of rules for the whole country and this was done April 1st. So April 1st the Governor General signed a new state of emergency, new rules that would apply not just to San Pedro or to the rest of the country but the whole country and so from April 1st to April 30th we started out with rules for the whole country that we thought would have lasted until the end of this month the 30th of April. As you know things got very dicey in the Cayo district and what we did was amended the regulations that were set from April 1st to April 30th we amended those to make special rules just for Cayo that were extra strict. So we had the whole country with rules that were strict and then special rules for Cayo that were extra strict, you remember that ? And then the situation got more intense more cases developed and so what we essentially did was that we said that from April 11th to April 25th we would make the entire country be extra strict like Cayo and then make Sundays be extra extra strict. So that is where we are right now. We have regulations that started April 1 that will end April 30th but within that period we designated April 11th to April 25th as an extra strict period like we did for Cayo because we felt that we needed to do that for those fourteen days. Those fourteen days will end Sunday morning. When we wake up Sunday we’re into new rules and regulations because the extra strict situation from the 11th to the 25th will come to an end.”
As we have reported, a few Parliamentarians will go to the House of Representatives on Monday to vote on whether there should be an extension of the State of Emergency. Earlier today, the opposition issued a press release saying they will not oppose the motion. In this next excerpt from Ask the Expert, Peyrefitte explained the Statutory Instruments and the relaxation announced yesterday.
Hon. Michael Peyrefitte, Attorney General of Belize: “The House will meet on Monday and the Senate will meet on Tuesday to confirm extending the state of emergency period to the end of June, June 30th. Now let me say something very fundamental about that. First of all not because it is extended for two months means that it must go for the two months. It could only go for a month you know ? It could only go for six weeks. How long it will go depends on where we are with the disease and so let me back up even little before that. Even though it will be for two more months May 1 to June 30th the important thing is not that we are in the state of emergency the most important thing is what will be the rules during that time. Now the rules can go one of two ways. If between now today and next week Friday May 1st for example we have no more cases, we continue to have zero cases every day and clearly it will show that we have some control over the situation then the rules from May 1 to end of June could be very loose, you understand ? If all of a sudden between now and next week Friday we have a hundred cases or fifty cases come upon us then the rules between May 1 and June 30th could be fairly strict. We have not yet completed the rules for May 1 to June 30th because we have to look to see what will happen between now and May 1st. So then what we have facing us now then is to just explain once again what will be the law when we wake up Sunday morning until we go to sleep Thursday night. What I’m reading today could change next week Friday you understand me? So what I’m reading today will just be what will last for five days.”
As you have heard there will be some ease in the restrictions of movements. Some businesses will be allowed to reopen and public transportation may resume on Sunday. It is important to note, however, that these will be allowed with conditions.
Hon. Michael Peyrefitte, Attorney General of Belize: “We are anything but out of the woods. We’re not in the all clear and I listened to the Prime Minister’s presentation about a thousand times yesterday and I don’t know how people can come away with that thinking that the man said that it would be a free for all, no that’s no the case. This Sunday, two days from now, will not be that strict strict Sunday that we’ve been having the last two Sundays. So this Sunday shops will open, gas station will open, you could move to help elderly people with their homes and stuff. Sunday will be just like Monday to Saturday starting this Sunday until next week Friday. Let me tell you what will happen when you wake up Sunday until you go sleep Thursday night. Certain things we have to remember, yes given that from April 11 to April 25th will be done there will be a slight relaxation of the laws but not a free for all and come May 1st it could be even more relaxed but we don’t know yet. So let me tell you now what will be the law April 26th to April 30th and what I will do Dorian because of the confusion that’s in the public right now I will simply have to go over everything so that people can understand what is still in place, what is still applicable, what you still have to abide by. Firstly if you remember last week we had a curfew for children where if you’re a child below the age of 16 you can only be on the street between eight in the morning and four in the afternoon that will remain in place. So come 4:00 p.m on Sunday if you’re under 16 you need to be home. Come Sunday night eight o’clock the curfew is still in place. So from eight at night Sunday night till five in the morning Monday morning that is coming right here it’s a curfew you’re not allowed to be on the street unless you are police, BDF, Coast Guard, customs, immigration, nurse or doctor who are on duty. Curfew doesn’t change, we still have curfew. If you’re out nine at night and you’re not a person who is supposed to be out nine at night Sunday night you’re going to jail because the curfew is still in effect. Those are two major things I want to mention right away. Two major things I want to mention; the curfew is still in effect and the curfew will be in effect right up to next week Thursday night when you go to sleep it will be in effect right up to then. What will happen May 1st and beyond we don’t know yet, we might keep the curfew, we might do away with the curfew, we don’t know yet it depends on what happens but I can tell you up until the end of this month we still have curfew.”
Despite the relaxations announced the Attorney General stressed that police can still question your destination and detain you if curfew is breached.
Hon. Michael Peyrefitte, Attorney General of Belize: “During the hours of five in the morning and eight at night beginning this Sunday, from five in the morning to eight at night you can only be outside for the same reasons that you could only be outside with from before like now. You can only be outside and about come Sunday if you’re purchasing essential needs, if you’re attending for medical our veterinary attention, if you have an emergency especially a medical emergency, if you are an essential worker or employee of an approved business going to and from work, if you’re a home healthcare provider of services to sick, disabled, elderly and children only going to and from work and you’re acting as an essential worker but not limited to security guards whether by foot or a delivery person or something like that. So then even though Sunday it will not be as strict as it is today come Sunday you can still only be outside for essential purposes; purchasing essential needs, medical attention, emergencies, an essential worker, home healthcare provider, those are the only purposes for which you can be outside. Come Sunday it is not a free for all that’s not what the Prime Minister said. As we said earlier Dorian between 5 am and 8 pm people are restricted to the movement for the purposes of jogging, running or walking only for exercise. No cycling, no gymnastics, no nothing like that; walking, running or jogging only. I keep getting questions about bicycling and I understand the question but it is not allowed at this point. Provided as well, and this is something that will also kick in come Sunday, you will be allowed to exercise but a very important thing would change and it is not so draconian because people have already been practicing it in certain business, you have to maintain a minimum of six feet distance between people not three, six feet. Come Sunday if you’re jogging six feet you have to remain apart from each other. Now when we say movement we mean foot, car anything like that, mule and cart anything like that. An officer of the security services beginning Sunday could still stop you and question you. “Where are you going ? Are you going out for an essential purpose? if the answer is no you will be committing an offence and you will be charged.”