CEO of the T&T Chamber of Industry and Commerce Gabriel Faria remains hopefulof a reduction in COVID-19 cases fall so that public health restrictions can be relaxed before July 4.
“We recognise the need for the extension at this time and also note the concern about casual interaction and errant behaviour. We are hopeful that if the situation improves consideration would be given to relaxing restrictions earlier,” he said in an initial reaction to an extension in public health restrictions.
Faria said many business have invested and developed their digital infrastructure to facilitate servicing customers through curbside pickup and delivery services. He believes that these are contactless, low density and much safer than people crowding outside businesses.
“We also believe there needs to be equity in the way the restrictions on businesses are applied. It is unfortunate that we have restrictions on local business while foreign companies supplying similar products are able to operate without restrictionsm” he said.
“We have also heard about support for individuals but there are thousands of businesses which are significantly impacted, some closed for close to 15 months, and there has been marginal if any support provided.”
Faria added: “We are meeting with our executive committee of the board to discuss how we can help encourage responsible behaviour and engage the Government to work more collaboratively with the private sector for the benefit of T&T.”
Downtown Owners and Merchants Association’s (DOMA) President Gregory Aboud said he had no “quarrel” with the Government’s latest decision.
“There is the drastic state of affairs which still exists vis-a-vis the high infection rate and also the frightening number of persons who are dying from COVID-19 at this time and therefore we could not find any reason to quarrel with the need for a continuation of the measures which are currently enforced,” he said.
Aboud suggested a review of the current restrictions so that the next time that citizens learn of the rules and regulations governing activity would not be on July 4.
He also suggested that nationals be allowed to travel abroad to get vaccinated as is currently being done in some other Caribbean countries.
“We know for a fact that this is working to help stimulate not only an expansion in the number of citizens who would be vaccinated but also to stimulate some movement across the borders of properly vaccinated people, especially citizens which would help the economy to reopen.
“So that the strategy is to reduce the burden on Government vaccination by allowing those who can go overseas to be vaccinated and then giving those persons who are duly vaccinated twice including foreigners who have the two vaccines and the negative PCR, to enter the country. We know this has been successful in some of the jurisdictions in the Caribbean.”
However, owner of the Trent Restaurant Group, Peter George Jr, said he was “deeply disturbed” by the Government’s latest decision.
“This means almost two months of emergency powers. That is an extremely destabilising thing. Citizens are unaware that a state of emergency is not just a curfew, it’s a suspension of the Constitution.
“I don’t understand why we need to have a suspension of the Constitution for two months.
“There is still no meaningful intervention by this Government to help people and help businesses. Minister Imbert spoke about $5 billion in relief and that includes $3 billion in VAT bonds, which is money they owed to citizens in the first place. At the end of this if our economy does not have jet fuel to take off, we will have serious problems,” George said.