THERE was confusion at the Wrightson Road, Port of Spain, Licensing Office yesterday when more than 60 people arrived but were not immediately allowed to enter because of changes to the appointment system and Covid-19 restrictions.
It caused a back-up of people, very few of whom were practising physical distancing, in front the entrance for several hours.
Some people had appointments, some did not.
But the office was only allowing ten people in at a time.
Assistant Transport Commissioner Junior Gordon explained while everyone wore masks, social distancing was non-existent outside the office.
In an earlier statement, the Works and Transport Ministry said from yesterday, in light of new Covid cases, it had amended the operating system to ensure social distancing and crowd control at the Licensing Division.
It said senior citizens are now required to utilise the prebooking appointment system to conduct business at licensing offices, and all customers have to use the website, www.picktime.com/licensingappointment, to schedule appointments.
The ministry said on August 10, a new online booking system will be launched to allow for additional appointment times as it was aware between June 1 and now, there has been an “exponential increase” in transactions due to the closure of licensing offices in March.
At Port of Spain yesterday, one man said he had been waiting for hours.
“I have been here since 8.30 this morning and my appointment was 11.30, but up to now... nothing, but they said that they are just taking in ten people at a time,” he said.
Tara Ramroop, 56, said: “I have been here since 10 a.m. and I have an 11-to-11.15 a.m. appointment, but I still have to wait.”
Brenecia Lawrence said: “I went online a month ago and the system gave me an 11.45 a.m. appointment time, but I met the door locked and I didn’t expect to see all these people here.”
Lawrence complained no Licensing official came to explain what was going on.
Another customer, Kristian Adimoolah, said: “I had an appointment for 9 a.m. and I made that appointment last week, but when I came here this morning at 9, security told me to back off for social distancing and just join the people standing in front, and I have been here ever since.”
Physical distancing problems
Commissioner Gordon told the Express “it would appear that people are not getting familiar with the new normal of Covid-19, especially with what has been happening recently”.
The Ministry of Health reported 12 new cases of Covid-19 yesterday.
Gordon said people have turned up at licensing offices for answers to questions available online while others said they didn’t know how to make an appointment using a smartphone or computer.
“Other people said they cannot access the site or the phone numbers don’t work because they may try once or twice and if they have not gotten through, they come down here, some just to ask questions, for which the answers are readily available,” he said.
Gordon said his front-line staff had a lot of concerns following recent local cases of Covid-19.
“We have direct contact with a broad spectrum of the public, and some staff members have pre-existing conditions and are now taking sick leave, so I now also have to manage with limited staff,” he said.
“I am asking people to please follow the guidelines, educate themselves on the prerequisites for a transaction and help us to carry out the processes quickly and stop the cluster.”