The Antigua and Barbuda Chamber of Industry of Commerce (ABCIC), which groups many of the traditional businesses in the country, is welcoming the decision by the government to lift the State of Emergency and the accompanying curfew effective midnight on Wednesday.
Executive Director of ABCIC, Martin Cave, said the ending of the measures introduced almost two years ago to combat the spread of the COVID-19 virus will likely result in increased business for members of the private sector.
“The business community would welcome the lifting of the State of Emergency and the curfew, as it would bring back normality to operations in the private sector, even though it really is a new normal, as much of the health protocols introduced as part of the SOE – such as the wearing of masks, washing of hands and social distancing – will remain in place,” he noted.
Much as he welcomes the ending of the SOE, Cave noted that businesses and the country generally will have to live with the anti-COVID measures as the information is that the new Omicron variant is reported to be more transmissible.
“Businesses will maintain the sanitation measures as much as they will welcome the relaxation of the curfew, as they anticipate that this would bring the private sector much relief,” he explained.
The ABCIC executive director used the opportunity to issue a word of advice to the government and law enforcement officers.
“The lifting of the SOE means that people will be moving about as normal. This now gives criminal elements the opportunity to move about freely as well. This presents a greater challenge to law officers to protect the country from the deeds of criminals,” he warned.
Cave praised the law enforcement officers for their efforts in keeping criminal activities at a relatively low level during the pandemic and he is urging them to increase their patrols and other crime fighting measures to ensure that crime does not increase with the lifting of the curfew.
“Criminals had no choice but to lay low during the curfew hours; for they knew that if they are caught during the hours of restricted movements that they were liable to be stopped and questioned. They may be seeing the end of the curfew as licence to resume these activities,” he suggested.
The business executive explained that the pandemic has had a devastating impact on the local business community and he is of the view that ending the SOE and curfew will bring a much needed shot-in-the-arm for the private sector