Regulatory policy

Bars and restaurants want to end absurd safe zone policy

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File photo: Ariapita Avenue, Port of Spain. Photo by Angelo Marcelle

RESTAURANT Peter George is disappointed that the government’s safe zone policy has not been discontinued.

On Friday, the Prime Minister announced an easing of pandemic restrictions, including allowing establishments operating as safety zones, for those vaccinated or exempt and children under 12, to operate at 75% capacity. .

On Sunday, George said the safe zone policy was inconsistent. He said the prime minister must recognize “the time is long past for the safe zones to be dissolved because it has not been effective”.

“He just imposed asymmetrical restrictions on companies that didn’t deserve them from my point of view.

“You have restaurants, cinemas and bars where people cannot work or go to unless they are vaccinated. But you have banks, pharmacies, supermarkets, hypermarkets, government buildings, etc. which are full of people and you don’t know if they are vaccinated or not.

While major metropolises around the world are waiving similar policies, George said there’s no global evidence that restaurants are “part of the problem” when it comes to the spread of covid19.

On March 4, New York City Mayor Eric Adams announced that restaurants and theaters would no longer require proof of vaccination starting Monday.

George also wants to know why the government backed down on a vaccination mandate for public sector workers, but employees in the food, drink and entertainment industries need to be vaccinated to work.

“Safe zones, to me, are unfair, especially now that the civil service is being called up.

“The prime minister once said they were supposed to be vaccinated by 14th January, then he caved and said 17th February…Then he caved again and now said the civil service would come out and the government no longer researched the vaccination requirements for civil servants.

“So what does this mean? The government has ordered private companies and private workers not to come to work unless they are vaccinated under the public health order, but they cannot exercise the same authority over their own stakeholders and employees.

“That in itself is absurd.”

As the country begins the transition from the pandemic to the endemic phase, George said the government must now rely on people to take personal responsibility for the virus instead of imposing “responsible” behaviors.

“The damage caused by the safe zone policy is already done. The question is no longer how much more damage will be done, but how soon can recovery begin?

“And I’m not just talking about the recovery to get back to profitability. Anyone in my industry, especially over the past two years, will know that the money (that we lost) is gone and will never come back.

George is the owner of Trent Restaurants Ltd and his chain includes Trotters, Buzo, Amara, Blue Star Diner and Tommy’s restaurants.

Meanwhile, although they are now happy bars can operate at 75 per cent, Barkeepers and Owners Association (BOATT) president Sateesh Moonasar said the association will continue to ‘pressure relentlessly’ on the government to allow 100% capacity.

He said some establishments were allowed to “post” covid19 regulations regarding capacity, while others were closely monitored.

But, he acknowledged, “it’s increased to 75% and it’s a step in the right direction, but it’s still up to the (police).

“Whether you say 50% or 75% capacity, we still have bars facing the problems of police discretion.

“We are now asking for 100% capacity and expect the vaccination policy to be removed in the coming weeks.”

Claiming that there are all types of events across the country that reflect safe zone settings – except for the need for proof of vaccination – Moonasar questioned the rationale for the continuation of the security zone policy.

As part of the rollback of restrictions announced by Dr Rowley in Parliament on Friday, from today families will no longer have to be masked in their vehicles or any marine vessels used by them.

Mask use will remain in all public spaces and places where there is public interaction. Public transport will return to 100% capacity and passengers will have to remain masked.

There have also been decreases in quarantine and isolation times while the public can congregate in groups of up to 25 people.

Team and contact sports will also now be allowed and he said once there are no ‘dangerous changes’ to TT’s covid19 stance, all children will return to physical school at the third quarter in April.

Also from today, all civil servants will return to work as normal as the civil service will resume full service.