Attorney General Dia Forrester, attending her first post Cabinet press briefing since being appointed Grenada’s top legal officer, addressed concerns about the State of Emergency on Tuesday (January 12).
“I know there is a general concern in relation to whether or not there has been a Declaration of Emergency because the last Declaration of Emergency was done on the 21st day of December 2020,” she said, adding that “in the normal scheme of things” a proclamation that accompanies a Declaration of Emergency lasts for 21 days, which would have ended on Tuesday (January 12). However, the Attorney General told reporters that the December 21 Declaration of Emergency was revoked on Monday (January 11) and a new Declaration was done by the Governor General and properly gazetted.
“Moreover, that State of Emergency, that proclamation, is going to last 21 days until February 02, 2021,” she said, explaining this will apply unless Parliament fails to pass a resolution during the 21 days to adopt the proclamation. The House of Representatives is scheduled to meet today.
The main change to the regulations is the curfew period, which is now 10 pm to 5 am, and the size of funerals, weddings and private gatherings, which is now 20. Applications for larger gatherings must be made to the Commissioner of Police and Chief Medical Officer.
“Other than those two things the regulations are the same,” she noted.
In response to questions from reporters about start and end dates for the State of Emergency proclamation, Attorney General Forrester said the proclamation lapses after 21 days and the curfew ends at the same time.
“The regulations are under consistent review so the curfew period or even having the curfew may change at any time. It may be shortened, it may be extended or it may be removed altogether. Those decisions are really informed by … the current state of affairs and if there is actually a need to have it based on the medical advice being received and the instructions given to our office in terms of what has to be in place or what has to be changed,” she explained.
Since the coronavirus pandemic disrupted the world in March 2020, Grenada’s Emergency Powers (COVID-19) proclamations and accompanying regulations have undergone numerous adjustments. The regulations introduced the nation to protocols for social distancing, wearing masks and sanitising. The regulatory changes were dictated by the status of COVID-19 cases here and the level of compliance to protocols by residents and visitors.
By May, the curfew was still in place, as were designated business days. Beaches remained closed and the public was allowed to engage in outdoor exercise, alone or together with family members living under the same roof. Exercise could not exceed 90 minutes per day, between 5 am and 6 pm.
The Emergency Powers (COVID-19) (NO. 15) regulations, 2020, gazetted on July 6, 2020 did not include a “Restriction on freedom of movement” section.
On September 16, 2020 the Minister of Health, in keeping with Section 4 of the Quarantine Act, Chapter 271, made the Quarantine (COVID-19) regulations, 2020 that included criteria to identify low and high risk countries, as well as new protocols for people arriving in Grenada.
The State of Emergency proclamations and regulations continue to change, with the most recent being the Emergency Powers (COVID-19) Regulations SRO NO. 3 of 2021 gazetted on January 11. When asked by reporters about Section 17 of the Grenada Constitution that makes provisions for how an emergency is declared, Attorney General Forrester said the Section includes steps that may be taken by the Governor General, which are then approved by Parliament.
“Section 17 is very clear in stating that it is the Governor General and the Houses of Parliament that deal with a declaration of a State of Emergency,” she said.
Section 17 (1) states that “the Governor-General may, by Proclamation which shall be published in the Gazette, declare that a state of emergency exists for the purposes of this Chapter. (2) Every declaration of emergency shall lapse – a. in the case of a declaration made when Parliament is sitting, at the expiration of a period of seven days beginning with the date of publication of the declaration; and b. in any other case, at the expiration of a period of twenty-one days beginning with the date of publication of the declaration unless it has in the meantime been approved by a resolution of both Houses of Parliament.”
The Attorney General also referred to Section 4 of the Emergency Powers Act, which states that during a period of emergency the Cabinet may make regulations.
“The secretary to Cabinet, when regulations are being made pursuant to the Emergency Powers Act, that is who … must sign off on these regulations,” she added.