The principal features of the Emergency Regulations, published on Sunday in an additional effort to combat the overwhelming spread of Covid-19 infections, are daytime restrictions on the movement of persons and the imposition of a 9pm to 5am curfew.
I took comfort from the fact that the regulations did not contain draconian provisions for things like summary detention and censorship.
Many of us have tried to have governments accept that it is possible to declare a state of emergency and take only such additional powers as are needed to combat the particular emergency. This declaration is a good precedent for that.
On the debit side, the regulations omit to state directly that the police are enabled to enter any place without a warrant for the purpose of enforcing the regulations. This omission is surprising because of the prior and enduring public controversy on the subject of entry into private property.
It is also strange that the drafters of the Emergency Regulations expressly provided in regulation eight for arrest without warrant but not for entry without warrant.
I must repeat my concern that the government may have left us open to claims for damages, particularly if the police rely on the imprecise phrases set out in regulation eight—namely the action of a person ‘reasonably suspected’ to be acting ‘prejudicial to public health, public safety or public order’.
There can be real difficulties in relying on ‘catch all’ phrases quoted above. In answer to questions about the ambit of regulation eight, the government has somewhat fatalistically acknowledged, as it must, that the courts are available to provide redress.
At this stage of the government’s management of the Covid-19 crisis, I have some other outstanding questions to be answered. These have been conspicuously evaded other than by delivery of anti-free-speech reprimands for commenting on the issues giving rise to the questions.
A fundamental question is: who were the people, in response to the CMO’s concern at the increase in Covid-19 infections in early March, who ‘thought’ that the increase ‘was too small’? As I understand it, those doubters did not ‘follow the science’ of the multiplicative effect of infections when small numbers rapidly multiply into large numbers.
This question is fundamental because it may give rise to the further question of why was the state of emergency not imposed in March, especially with the frolicking Easter week coming up?
Last Sunday, I asked for fuller disclosure concerning the role of the private sector in vaccine procurement. That was a mild request, miles away from any assertion on my part in disregard of the reported inability of the private sector to get into the vaccine market.
This mild request for fuller disclosure was prompted by the following reports among others: Express 22 and 23 March 2021, Loop TT 23 March 2021, Newsday 31 March and 6 May 2021.
A summary of these reports is this: the minister of health has strongly denied that the government approached the private sector or asked the sector to pay for vaccines. However, he did acknowledge that the ministry facilitated talks between the ministry and the private sector.
Further, in late March, it was reported that ‘a joint statement would be forthcoming once discussions progress further and agreements have been reached’.
Subsequently, as recently as 6 May, the Newsday referred to a piece of more recent correspondence, but if the market is tightly closed to the private sector procurement of vaccines, as it reportedly is, it is probably a dead end.
In fact, in view of even more recent dismissive ministerial reactions to the subject, one might assume that the government has terminated conversations with the private sector on vaccines—but why not provide fuller disclosure instead of ranting?
We are on the ropes. The government should be more receptive to the private sector and other leadership elements, and to the need to open a now desperately needed era of enlightened government trust and collaboration with others.
While the opposition has terminal political foot-in-mouth disease, perhaps Minister of Foreign and Caricom Affairs Dr Amery Browne can lead his colleagues in cabinet away from attempting leadership by rant and bouffing.
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