Despite being warned of a shutdown by Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley on Saturday, bar owners and patrons continued to flout Covid-19 regulations over the weekend, forcing the Government to close bars at an earlier time.
“The behaviour we saw of people congregating one on top the other, talking loudly, the bodily fluids flying all over the place, we can’t stand back and allow this to continue,” National Security Minister Stuart Young said yesterday.
After a three-month shutdown due to Covid-19 restrictions, bars were allowed to reopen until 10 p.m. just last week Monday.
Given the breach in regulations, Young announced yesterday that bars will now be permitted to open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
“And if we don’t see a reversal of the type of behaviour that has happened over the last 72-plus hours, the Government will not hesitate to do what is necessary, based on the advice that we get from our medical experts,” he cautioned during the Ministry of Health’s Covid-19 virtual news conference.
“We also warn restaurants who have bar licences...right now we are allowing you to continue to serve until 10 p.m. But if we see a continuation of behaviour at these restaurants who have bars inside, we will also roll back on that category of persons,” he added.
No more than 25 people
Young said Government has been trying to prevent the congregation of people and the risk of Covid-19 community spread.
“What we saw within the first weekend of bars being opened, starting really from last week Thursday on to Friday night, Saturday night and even up to yesterday (Sunday), has greatly disturbed us,” Young said.
“This (8 p.m. closure)is the first step. A warning was given over the weekend by both the Prime Minister and Minister Deyalsingh. We have taken this step to give another opportunity, not so much only to the bar owners and operators but more so the patrons and the persons going to the bars and congregating on the roads, pavements outside of the bars. So the first step is today we will roll back, and bars will now be required to close at 8 p.m. on a daily basis,” he said.
Young reminded bar owners and patrons that groups of only 25 people are allowed inside the bar at a time.
“But also outside, more importantly, the public spaces, persons are not allowed to gather in groups of more than 25,” he emphasised.
Young cautioned that the police will ensure enforcement of the law.
“In the first instance...anyone who has more than 25 inside their establishments and not adhering to the Ministry of Health’s protocols for bars, they will be closed. Those persons who are outside, if they are congregating outside in groups of more than 25 and behaving in manners that give concern for public health and also public order, the police will warn persons, if they don’t adhere the police are authorised to close the various bars, and other watering holes,” Young said.
“So they will first of all give a warning and, if necessary, they will close down the various establishments that are found to be the genesis, the core of this type of activity of congregating,” he added.
Please be peaceful
Young advised bar owners to consider using a “last call” system, meaning that by 7.30 p.m. the last orders for the night would be taken so there would not be a last-minute rush by patrons to purchase drinks.
“People, we don’t want to do these things. The bars are providing employment for a very important part of our population. But as we’ve said as a Government from day one, we will take necessary measures and steps and decisions and be decisive in doing so, to protect the rest of the population,” he stressed.
He said the behaviour observed taking place over the last 72-plus hours has given great cause for concern and therefore the decision was taken to roll back.
“Inside of these institutions, these entities, falls under the control of the bar owners, so you will be held responsible. Outside, the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service, and on occasion with the assistance of the Defence Force, will not hesitate to disperse the crowds. And we are asking people to please be peaceful, remember this is for your own good.”
Young said police will employ their common law and statutory powers to prevent any breaches of the peace.
“They have the laws of loitering. Persons who are gathered outside as we’ve seen... there’s a video circulating of what went on in Barataria on Friday night. The police have been instructed and asked to uphold the regulations. This is for the protection of the population. There is the public health regulations, there is the public health ordinance, the laws of loitering, the laws of police having common law duty to protect and to protect persons and to prevent the breaking of the law,” he said.
No parties, clubs
Young also reminded the population that in the current Covid-19 regulations, parties are prohibited.
He said party boats and clubs are not allowed to be open for business. Young said he was informed by Commissioner of Police Gary Griffith yesterday that a club located at One Woodbrook Place was open for business on Friday night.
“I reminded the police that, according to the regulations, party boats and clubs are not permitted to be open. Remember that with every breach of the regulations you are susceptible to a $50,000 fine or six months imprisonment,” Young stated. He said public parties and public fetes in private spaces are also captured by the regulations.