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Customers wait outside PriceSmart, Mausica, on Thursday, hours after Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley announced new COVID-19 were going in place on Sunday.

SHALIZA HASSANALI

From midnight on Sunday (March 29) to April 15, citizens who are classified as “non-essential” will be required to stay at home. Should civilians ignore the warning, they will feel the full brunt of the law, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley said during Thursday’s post-Cabinet media briefing at the Diplomatic Centre, St Ann’s, announcing deeper COVID-19 measures.

“Come Sunday night, we are increasing our separation. We are asking people to stay at home under the existing legal arrangements. What I have announced is an upgrade of a stay at home,” the PM said.

He insisted the move was not a declaration of a state of emergency or lockdown but noted the first stay at home had initially applied to those seeking 14 days self-isolation.

“The first order was if your were genuinely S-I-C-K. Now, if you are S-I-Q you stay home now – which means separate, isolate and quarantine. This arrangement that I am announcing goes until April 15.”

Rowley said any activity deemed non-essentials will not be tolerated.

“Non-essentials we expect to stay home. We are going to categorise it in such a way that we identify a large block of the population that is not essential. And if you are not essential, from Sunday night stay home.”

Chief Medical Officer Dr Roshan Parasram said the Government has been fighting against the spread of the virus.

“So what we are trying to do is restrict the movement of persons in T&T, because after saying many times that people should stay at home, obviously, the call has not been heeded.”

The PM said this was the only sensible response in battling COVID-19 which took a life on Wednesday.

“You see the liming and congregating … the police will enforce the law. I simply want to appeal to every citizen not to be a problem by causing the police to have to act against you.”

The police, Rowley said, will be backed by the T&T Defence Force. He urged the population not to rush to the supermarkets and resort to panic buying in the next two days but to be prepared for what is to come.

“I am not declaring a state of emergency. There are laws and regulations in place now that can cause our security services to enforce no gathering and to enforce the kinds of separation that we are asking for.”

Rowley said while some quarters have been calling for a total lockdown, the country was not a light bulb that can be switched off, as critical services in health, public utilities, social services, the airports and ports would be needed. The private sector, he said, must remain operational.

“We are fighting. The white flag stays down. So this locking down of the country, which is a fashion statement … might be a fashion statement for some who want to get in on the act. For the Government, we don’t deal with a fashion statement.”

Rowley said they will deal with issues that are well thought out and organised and today, the public will be provided with a comprehensive list of the essential services and entities under which they fall.

“The Attorney General will tell you which laws are going to be enforced,” he said, adding National Security Minister Stuart Young will work with T&T Police Service and Defence Force to enforce the quarantine law.

“We are at the stage now where joke is joke. This is no joke. Those people in this country who figure this is a joke … this is about life and death and your foolishness will not be tolerated.”

He again asked citizens to demonstrate responsible behaviour.

“If we are able to be as disciplined on this situation as we were as disciplined in Panorama with the steelbands, we will succeed.”