By Michael Jarvis, UK Correspondent
Anguilla has been forced into lockdown for the next fortnight due to a sudden surge COVID-19 cases this week.
By Saturday, what officials describe as still a cluster of cases had gone from zero to 43 confirmed cases; 39 adults and four children from 471 persons tested.
There are currently no hospitalisations but several patients have reported fever, cough, and flu-like symptoms. All cases are under isolation.
Officials fear the number could increase.
While the current outbreak is not being regarded at this stage as a community spread Anguilla government officials say extensive contact tracing is being carried out with residents required to stay indoors except for essential purposes.
Non-essential businesses, churches and schools have been closed. Mask-wearing in public is mandatory with a fine of $US925 ($EC2,500).
Entry into Anguilla - a British Overseas Territory (population 15,000) - is prohibited with only departures allowed.
Speaking during a video press conference on Saturday, Premier Dr Ellis Webster, a physician by training, called the situation “a public health emergency of our own doing.”
“We have become the enemies of our own success and became complacent even though we were admonished continuously to be vigilant,” he lamented citing the further public health and economic setback.
Premier Webster said border infringements - a suggestion of illegal entry believed to be by sea - and protocol breaches were the likely causes for the sudden spike in cases.
Just last week Anguilla announced phased a reopening schedule alongside an intensive vaccination programme.
The government said at the weekend that it hoped to bring the current COVID-19 surge under control so that the borders of the could still fully reopen by July as planned.
Premier Webster urged residents of Anguilla to get vaccinated and comply with the lockdown protocols.
The lockdown will remain in place initially until the end of the first week in May.
Meanwhile, a statement from Anguilla’s Governor Dileeni Daniel-Selvaratnam advised that “the current regulations in force with regard to limiting of movements of the public is geared at reducing the spread of the virus.
"Therefore, persons are being asked to stay in place unless absolutely necessary to leave places of residence for essential services.”