Attorney General Carl Bethel.
By KHRISNA RUSSELL
Tribune Chief Reporter
WHEN Parliament convenes on Monday it will likely agree to extend the 24-hour curfew based on the recommendation of medical experts.
These experts have recommended the curfew be extended for at least another 30 days, according to Attorney General Carl Bethel. However, he later added a 14-day extension may also be discussed.
Speaking ahead of a Cabinet meeting, Mr Bethel also said it was possible the government’s clampdown would become stricter, saying bank closures were among the considerations. However, the decision would be based on the advice of medical professionals.
He said yesterday: “The House of Assembly is scheduled to meet on Monday to debate the question of extending the curfew, but I can let Bahamians know that first of all we are in close consultation with the opposition and they agree that we should follow the medical advice of the medical professionals, and at a meeting held with them a few days ago, the strong advice from the medical practitioners who are leading this fight is that we must extend the curfew for at least another 30 days.”
Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis imposed a 9pm-5am curfew which began last Friday. On Monday, the curfew was extended to 24 hours. The curfew and other restrictions contained in two emergency orders are set to expire on March 31.
When asked if stricter measures are coming to fight the spread of COVID-19, Mr Bethel said: “We can get stricter but right now, for example, we could shut down all the banks forthwith on the basis and understanding that most persons have some form or method of withdrawing cash from banks and there are deposit machines.
“These are ATM machines both for the purposes of deposits and withdrawal and that the majority of workers in this country receive their payments by electronic means in any event so these are all things to be considered.”
Following Cabinet, Mr Bethel called in to a local talk show, explaining yesterday’s lockdown came after advice from medical experts.
He said the newest emergency order, which mandated the closure of airports and seaports, came out of great concern from officials about Bahamians crowding beaches at the weekend. The new order came into force Tuesday at 9am.
“. . . The health professionals were somewhat concerned particularly as a result of what occurred over the weekend where there were beach parties along the length and breadth of the country as a matter of fact and enormous amounts of close social contact for protracted periods,” he said on 96.9FM’s The Revolution with Juan McCartney.
“So these were the matters that kind of compelled the government because the medical professionals were extremely concerned.
“So what will happen on Monday (in Parliament) is that there will be a resolution and the resolution will be debated and tabled at that time with the possibility of a 30-day or perhaps another 14-day extension depending mostly on medical advice.”
While some have applauded the government for the measures, others have said they have gone too far with the closure of liquor stores. Mr Bethel said the government considered listing these stores as exempt but ultimately decided to keep these businesses closed.
As for the ability to move under the 24-hour curfew, he said everyone has the right to leave their homes for essential reasons.
He was asked on The Revolution if police could deny citizens this right. However, he stressed that police officers, according to the order, do have the discretion when it comes to movement.
“No, no, no, no. Everybody has a right to leave their homes for an essential purpose or to obtain an essential service. You have a right to go to the pharmacy, a right to go to the doctor, a right to go and buy food or get takeaway food et cetera. Nobody can tell you you can’t do that because that is a right that is retained for the citizen on the basis that these are essential services.
“What is being restricted is the ability to just hop in my car and say I’ll just go for a drive. If I as a citizen am stopped by police, they are entitled to ask and you are advised to answer where are you going in that car,” Mr Bethel said.