BELIZE CITY, Sun. Apr. 5, 2020– One component of the national state of emergency that came into effect at midnight on Wednesday, April 1, is a curfew to ensure that Belizeans remain indoors. The curfew hours run from 8:00 p.m. to 5:00 a.m. and this will remain in effect for the duration of the state of emergency.
At the onset of the curfew, sirens sounded across Belize City to announce that the curfew hour had arrived and citizens must remain inside their homes.
However, despite the various public service announcements advising Belizeans to remain indoors during the curfew hours, a number of persons have not been complying with the new arrangement.
On the first night of the curfew, police across the country reported that they arrested 74 persons for violating the curfew and also for violating various aspects of the emergency measures that have been put in place in Belize’s fight against the coronavirus pandemic.
The charges brought against 74 of the persons arrested countrywide on the first night included charges for violating the curfew hours, which were brought against 35 of those persons, while another 15 persons were charged for being outside without being able to provide an adequate reason, and 5 persons were charged with keeping an establishment open past the time when businesses should be closed. Three persons were charged for wandering without a valid reason, and one person was charged with failure to comply with quarantine regulations.
Those arrests were made on the first night the curfew came into effect, but since then, the numbers have more or less remained constant, with a high number of arrests each night.
This morning, Commissioner of Police Chester Williams confirmed that police have arrested over 300 persons for state of emergency-related violations, the majority of which appeared to be curfew violations.
There is a high court fine for violating the curfew — $5,000 or in default two years in prison.
Commissioner Williams posted on his Facebook page this morning that he will recommend to Prime Minister Dean Barrow that curfew violators be imprisoned until after the state of emergency is lifted.
Commissioner Williams made the following statement in his Facebook post: “Good morning, since the start of the curfew, the police have made over 300 State of Emergency-related arrests. Each day the number of arrest increases. This is evidence that some of our Belizeans are still not taking heed to the measures put in place to minimize or stop the spread of this deadly virus. People are finding all sorts of ways to beat, or dodge the system.
“It is in this spirit that I will be recommending to the Prime Minister that all those who continue to breach the regulations be sent directly to prison until the State of Emergency is over. Maybe this will serve as a stricter deterrence to those who may wish to continue making a joke of the measures. Together, we must fight to overcome the enormity of this virus.”
On Friday, following the first night of the curfew, Commissioner Williams told the media: “It seems like some of us Belizeans don’t take heed and we don’t take things seriously, but the Attorney General said that persons who violate the regulations and primarily, the curfew regulations, are going to be arrested and charged, and so there are a number of persons who were out last night despite the fact that they were warned, and so, we are not going to be warning no more, but rather, we are going to be making arrests.
“Yes, we understand that there are some persons that need to be out going to work, like the doctors, nurses, stevedores — depending on what time they are working, firemen etc.; if they are found during the curfew hours going to work or coming from work, they are safe. But any other persons outside that — if it is that you don’t have a medical emergency, don’t be on the streets, because the police is going to arrest you.”
The Commissioner of Police added, “To be honest, I was disappointed with Belize City, because I live in Belize City and I saw a number of persons out last night after the curfew, and I think Belize City only had like 10 arrests, and I said to the Commander today, I need to see better tomorrow morning.”
“Dangriga did well. Dangriga had, I think, 23 arrests. Following closely was Belmopan. Corozal also made a few. The cayes made a few, but Belize City, I expected much more out of Belize City, so I will see what happens between now and tomorrow morning. I’ll be out again during the curfew hours driving around, making sure that the streets are clear and point out to officers what need to be pointed out with a view to ensure that the objective of the curfew is achieved,” he said.
Feature photo: Compol Chester Williams