Opening remarks made by Acting Commissioner of Police, Edvin Martin at a press briefing held on Monday on the sweeping measures introduced as part of the so-called “limited” State of Emergency in effect on the island to address COVID-19:
Let me take the opportunity to thank the members of the media for again (as these are) very unprecedented time and very late in the evening for facilitating us in getting the message across to members of the public at this very crucial time.
I understand that Mr. Curwen would have already briefed you. And in the room I also have with me ACP Prince, our ACP for operation.
I want to indicate also that I’m speaking to you at this press brief without a prepared speech. And I’m doing that, given the urgency of the circumstances, and the criticality of us getting to the members of the public some crucial information that will probably assist with appeasing some of the concerns that have been circulating on social media.
I want to start by stating that since the commencement of this limited state of emergency, the RGPF has witnessed significant challenges with getting cooperation from some members of the public in many respects – the unwillingness to quarantine, the willingness to absorb social distancing, and the lack of respect for leaving your homes, only at a point in time for when we have to attend for specific issues, has been a major challenge.
And so in that context, I do support the measures taken by government for us to (go) another level. However, this was definitely (and will) signify some increasing (measures) and changes in the operational posture of the RGPF. What that means, in layman’s language, I will articulate, in a short while.
But let me also indicate what is the manifestation of a lack of cooperation, respect and adherence for the severity of the situation that we find ourselves in since Monday – the start of our limited state of emergency.
The RGPF arrested 27 persons specifically to the limited state of emergency for lack of cooperation, breaking curfew, leaving a place of residence, without true cause and a number of matters that have put us in an environment that made it difficult to enforce the social distancing as well.
As a result, in this period, we definitely will heighten our operational posture. And before I get into that, I want to speak to some of the areas that are of concern to members of the public. First is the issue of the operation of shops.
We will allow shops to open Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. Under this arrangement for the period of 8.00 a.m, to 12.00 pm or noon, as I should say.
These shops, however, are limited to shops where there are not employees to come from outside. So they are owners-operated shops, small shops in the villages that are owner-operated and shops that do not require employees coming from elsewhere.
You will not see an operation of supermarkets during this period.
Farmers, as it relates to farmers, we do have within the regulation the opportunity for farmers to apply for exemption to be able to attend to nurseries, as well as to attend to the animals. We understand that given the timeframe with which the regulation has been passed, and the ability for farmers to be able to make that application is limited and challenging.
And so police officers will express (and) exercise discretion in facilitating farmers to do so.
I must stay that we have already issued a number of permissions and exemptions to a number of farmers. We will continue to build on those to make sure that each farmer, that so requires has the comfort of having a pass (to attend to) his respective activities. And I want to state here that you can also make that application by sending in an email to our [email protected].
When we receive that, although tomorrow, during a full lockdown, we can process, we will be working we will process that application, and have our response sent back by email to those farmers. The farmers who do not have that facility can also go into the nearest police station. If they so require that comfort, to get some measure of pass until the proper pass can actually be achieved.
I’m shifting now to the issue of our operational posture on days for which shops will be open. This is what the public can expect: The police will locate roadblocks and checkpoints on the exiting boundary of every parish. And for example, it means then that no vehicle or person will be able to leave any Parish because of roadblocks to go outside of that Parish, to access any service. For the days that we open up for service we expect individuals to use the shops that are available within that community.
In addition to this, we will also have a number of patrols within that Parish, to make sure that we can prevent the unnecessary gathering and (to) police persons who choose not to comply with what is permitted. On the full curfew days, which will start tomorrow (or) so commencing tonight – from curfew tonight, we also maintaining a full curfew environment into tomorrow.
And what that means as stipulated in a regulation – we will expect all residents to stay within the confines of their homes or yard space during that period of time.
The exceptions will only be exceptions (that) are catered for in the new regulation and that has to do with emergency, security law enforcement and essential workers that are covered in the regulation. All other persons not so covered, we want to encourage and ask you to remain in your residence during that period of time tomorrow.
For the days that we open up on shops, if I can revisit that it is not for everyone to move around as we have been having in this first period. It is to allow one person, and only where it is necessary to go to shops, to get something that they may need and to go straight back home.
Any idling on the streets, we will take action in that regard. So I really look forward to the public here in getting (their) full cooperation in ensuring that we can work together to limit distancing and interaction, and hopefully reduce the risk of transmission at the community level.
As it relates to gas, we have decided at the moment that the DeCaul Gas station in Tempe, St George’s will be open to provide fuel and gas to the essential workers that are on the road that need that service.
We are aggressively working on identifying appropriate locations in the north, and in Carriacou for this to happen as well.
While I’m on Carriacou, we have also had arrangements and now our cell will facilitate this – noting that we are in dry season, (they) will facilitate the collection and delivery of water for the people in Carriacou if needed. And persons in Carriacou I know that you have a system, that you understand exemptions will be provided for water trucks to deliver to that particular system.
So I want to mention here that definitely we will do all what is necessary to ensure that persons have the necessary support that is required for them to continue to survive during this period of time.
This success, however hinges significantly on our joint, and collaborative cooperation. You will find as I’ve indicated and this is probably the third time I’m (saying) this that the RGPF will increase its professional posture in dealing with persons who fail to comply.
As the situations become more grave, our response has to increase until we get the desired response. I am hoping that as a nation, we will heed the call that has repeatedly been made by the Minister of Health, and members of the health sector, by our Prime Minister, members of government, and of course from the RGPF – we have been making those calls repeatedly.
I want to speak specifically to the issue of the purchase and consumption of alcohol. I know many of those shops are twinned with Grocery and alcohol. The sale and consumption of alcohol on those premises will not be allowed.
Seven of the (27) (persons) I referred to earlier were arrested for the consumption of alcohol at shops. And yes shopkeepers, we are aware of the back door strategy, we are aware of the locking up inside – but you can’t keep silent so we know you will be there.
Please, let us do what is necessary and exercise the discipline that is required so that together we can reverse this trend. I will stop here for now and entertain any questions, members of the committee, or members of the media may have.
Thank you very much.