Hairdressers, barbers, beauty technicians, gardeners, domestic workers and spas have been granted permission to resume operations from Monday. With more segments of the economy opening up as Phase Four of the process takes effect, public transport operators have been told they can increase passenger capacity to 75 per cent from Monday.
Announcing the latest easing of restrictions during a media briefing at the Diplomatic Centre, St Ann’s, Saturday, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley said as medical statistics continue to hold firm, all places of worship will be allowed to reopen from Friday.
Reiterating that restrictions remained in place for all of these business and religious organisations, Rowley outlined the protocols for sanitising, social distancing and the mandatory wearing of face masks.
To the owners/operators of all religious worship halls, he advised that they limit services to just one hour. “Where pews are available, occupy alternate pews at arm’s length,” he said. At places of worship where there are no pews, benches or chairs, he advised that markers be affixed to the ground six feet apart so there would be overcrowding.
Public gatherings increase to 10
Indicating health and safety guidelines would apply, Rowley, added, “We are increasing the number of persons who can congregate to ten.” He said people gathering in public spaces, however, must distance themselves appropriately.
Also from June 22, the PM said, all public transport can begin operating at 100 passenger capacity again.
The PM was optimistic that if the numbers remain unchanged up to June 22, bars, gyms, casinos, cinemas, in-house dining at restaurants, beaches, rivers and sporting field activities (minus the stadium crowds) can also restart.
June 22 all public servants back to work
Listing June 22 as the day when “The public service should get back to normal,” Rowley said this would entail all government workers returning to work.
He explained that between June 8 to June 22, public service managers would need to take “all the necessary steps to receive and encourage staff in, so between now and June 22 they will continue the rotation arrangements and do alternate days, but from June 22, all services should be available utilising all the employees of the Public Service.”
Borders, schools remain closed
Acknowledging the country’s borders along with the school system would be the only two areas that would remain closed after June 22, Rowley said this meant, “This country should be back to approximately 80 per cent of its functionality.”
Responding to questions on whether the Government felt obligated to step in and provide further financial cushioning to people who continue to be retrenched in the private sector, Rowley said anticipating the disruption that would have occurred as a result of COVID-19 initially, “most of those pre-emptive steps were meant to create breathing space for the private sector to survive and to continue.” That remains in place, he added.
New Arima hospital opens on Tuesday
Indicating there would be no further announcements before June 20 unless significant changes occur, Rowley said Finance Minister Colm Imbert would address issues on Friday during the mid-year review, including the overlap of some of the recommendations which were included in the first draft of the report from the Road Map Recovery Committee.
Criticising Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar over alleged statements that the Ministry of Health was misleading and fooling the population that there never was a parallel health system in place, Rowley questioned, “Now what manner of public official would make a statement like that in T&T?”
Countering this, he said the new Arima Hospital which will be opened on Tuesday, and the new Point Fortin Hospital had both been earmarked for use during COVID-19, while part of the Couva Hospital was also commandeered for use during COVID-19.