THE Government took its first step to roll back lock down restriction measures by reducing the hours of operation for bars.
This after numerous reports of large groups of people congregating at various bars and outside establishments across the country, and even a night club being open and hosted a party.
On Saturday, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley and Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh warned that bars would be shut if the bar owners and patrons did not abide with the Covid-19 protocols and regulations.
"We have taken this step to give another opportunity to not only the bar owners and operators but also the patrons and those congregating on the roads outside the bars", said Minister of National Security Young at Monday's virtual media briefing.
"We do not want to shut down bars. We want the economic industry to continue, but this industry is simply not adhering and playing their part in their response to Covid-19. If you are found in a bar after 8 p.m. tonight you will be charged by the TTPS. The bar owners and operators will be charged. We are also aware that people were closing their bars with patrons inside, and also having shuttle services into their establishments. This cannot happen", said the National Security Minister.
Young said that the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service (TTPS) was mandated to warn bar owners, and if that warning was not heeded, they have the power in law to close the establishments.
The warning was also given that no more than 25 people were allowed to congregate outside watering holes.
Young announced the adjustment of opening hours for bars, which are now set from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
The previous closing time was at 10 p.m.
Young said that the opening hour at 8 a.m. was allowed since other businesses open at that time, and some bars also serve food.
"Today we roll back. We remind patrons that the persons congregating inside these establishments are limited to 25 and outside in public spaces no more than 25", he said. "Expect the TTPS to do what is necessary".
"Those who are outside in more than 25 and behaving in manners that give concern for public and health order the police will wanr them. If they do not hear, they will warn people. The police are authorised to close the bars and watering holes. The police have this power in law when the police believe there is a public health hazard, or there is a breach of the law", said National Security minister.
"There is still a deadly virus called Covid-19 and the police have been instructed to enforce the law. The police have been instructed to first give a warning and then if necessary they will close down the various establishments to be the genesis or the core of this type of activity of congregating", said Young.
He also reminded that party boats and night clubs were not allowed to operate and would face a fine of $50,000 if found guilty of breaching the lock down regulations.
"What we are considering asking is for the bar owners to consider using is the 'last call system'. Now that you know you have to be shut at 8 p.m., by at 7.30 p.m. take the last orders, and people get your drinks. The bars are providing employment for a very important part of our population. BUt as we have said as a Government we will take the necessary measures, steps and decisions and be decisive in doing so to protect the rest of the population. Trinidad and Tobago is very fortunate due to the decisions that were taken as far back as January, and we have thus far prevented community spread", said the National Security minister.
Bar stakeholders had attempted to head off the decision, holding a press conference on Sunday to announce that goods would not be delivered to bars that were non-compliant, and that a hotline would be established so that members of the public could report non-complaint bars.
Young said it was up the patrons and operators of bars to have a more responsible environment, and operators had a responsibility over those buying drinking and congregating outside of their establishments.
Regarding why bars were being allowed to open at 8a.m. Young said he personally disagreed, but people had to get back to work.
Young said he hoped people were not frequenting bars at that early hour, but there were bars serving food at that time.
Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh said that he knew that bar operators were closing the doors and continued to entertain people inside. he said action would be taken in this case also.