Attorney General (AG) and Minister of Legal Affairs, Basil Williams, SC.

— says AG, unless providing or visiting an essential service

ATTORNEY GENERAL (AG) and Minister of Legal Affairs, Basil Williams, SC. has made it clear that, unless a citizen is conducting or visiting an essential service between the hours of 18:00 hours and 06:00 hours, he/she is to stay within the enclosure of his/her home and yard.

In an interview with the newspaper, on Sunday, the AG said that persons who fail to adhere to the COVID-19 emergency measures put in place by the government will be subject to answering to the police when caught.

Since the measures took effect on April 3, 2020, a few questions have been posed online by Guyanese requesting clarity.

For example, some persons were confused about whether they are to stay at home unless they are essential workers or are requested to provide an essential service.

“The presumption is everybody has to be home. Unless you’re providing an essential service or during 06:00 hours to 17:00 hours you’re on the road to go to the market, supermarket or to the bank or drive through or take-out lunch, you can’t be on the road because you want to be on the road,” he said.

Essential services which are allowed to operate for 24hours include: hospitals, healthcare and medical services including pharmacies, drug stores and private veterinary services; nursing homes, orphanages, shelters and other related care centres; immigration; the Revenue Authority; electricity services; water supply services; the disciplined forces; prison services; solid waste management, sewerage and janitorial services; air traffic control; Demerara Harbour Bridge and Berbice River Bridge; hotels and accommodation; 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.

Meanwhile, the following services may be open between 06:00 hours and 17:00 hours: 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.

The Stabroek Market Bus Terminal earlier in the year

Any person 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.

The AG stated that the penalty is a fine that is multiplied 65 times and some 2 months’ imprisonment.

“The whole idea is that we really expect people to be reasonable; it’s a killer infection. The last resort is having to jail people and detain them but it’s a serious matter,” he said.

If stopped by the police, authorized persons who fall within the bracket of essential service providers have to produce some form of employment identification.

“They will have to satisfy the police [with identification] to show that they are attached to an essential service but with the curfew at night, you’re not expected to be on the road…if the police stop you, you have to have an explanation or else you would be in breach of the measures that are in effect,” he said.

Some persons have also noted the list of restricted social activities for places such as the seawall and creek and have questioned whether this is a ban to groups or to the individual person or an immediate family.

Restricted areas to social activities include: a private party; a recreational or competitive sporting event; a wedding, other than the bride, the bridegroom, official witnesses and the marriage officer; a banquet, ball or reception: a bar or rum shop; the seawall; a pool, creek or river; a wake or vigil; a gym; a beauty salon or spa; a club or discotheque; a meeting of a fraternal society, private or social club or civic association or organisation; or any other social activity.

It also includes water sports or recreational activities on any river, creek and internal waters; funerals other than ten or less mourners, one officiant and the funeral director and the necessary staff; and places of worship except for the conduct of funeral services and weddings.

However, the Minister made it clear that what is in place is a ‘stay at home’ order which means just that to all who are not exempted or authorized within the given time.