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Active cases (May 21-Pres) annotated

Akash Samaroo

As the Government deliberates on the future of the State of Emergency, which will expire at midnight on August 29, public health policy specialist Dr Mandreker Bahall believes the curfew no longer serves its purpose and is now counterproductive.

However, when contacted by Guardian Media yesterday, Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi said any decision on seeking an extension of the SoE from Parliament will be made and announced by Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley.

“Obviously, we are all acutely paying attention to the Delta variant…those are matters that the Prime Minister will consider when the Cabinet is having those discussions but the matter of any extension is squarely a matter for the Prime Minister,” the AG said.

Al-Rawi said he is ready for any call that the Prime Minister makes and he is prepared with multiple options, but he believes the SoE has worked “in the particular circumstances.”

Dr Bahall concurs, but he believes the 9 pm-5 am curfew has run its course.

“I believe that should be abolished altogether. However, our population tends to not have social responsibility but keeping the curfew between 9 am and 5 pm could be worse, so we should allow people through education to adhere to the public health guidelines.”

Dr Bahall said the curfew may now encourage gatherings, given that several sectors have been reopened by the Government.

“A lot of people will be out there waiting to come home and there will be a different set of issues between 6 pm to 9 pm trying to get home in the traffic that will encourage clustering.”

Dr Bahall said there is also a psychological impact on people who are trying to beat the clock to ensure they don’t run afoul of the law.

“Remember, we are all not criminals, we just happen to be on the road because of a flat tyre or a traffic jam, so we should just abolish that curfew and allow people to relax. In fact, what could be more helpful is for business places to close at a reasonable time and allow people to get their stuff together and get home as early as possible instead of making it a legal thing.”

On June 28 during a Ministry of Health media briefing, epidemiologist Dr Avery Hinds said despite SoE measures, there was still a “significant amount of movement in the population.”

Yesterday, Bahall said that was to be anticipated.

“The nighttime curfew didn’t make any big difference because people tend to not move at night unless you go to parties.”

Meanwhile, virologist Dr Nicole Ramlachan said the Government must be cautious when removing restrictions, as other countries have seen a spike in COVID-19 cases after measures were relaxed. She also believes the SoE had a positive impact in suppressing the spread of the disease but said it would be foolhardy to expect a drastic decrease from that alone.

“You have to put everything together. An SoE without vaccinations is not going to work to bring down numbers. An SoE without isolation and lockdowns is not going to bring down the numbers. So what that shows to me is that it is really a matter of getting the vaccination rate up.”