Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh observes activity at Mario’s Pizza on Independence Square, Port-of-Spain, yesterday.

Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh caught several food handlers breaking COVID-19 safety protocols as they attended to customers and served meals without wearing masks yesterday, the first day of phase one of the reopening of businesses following lockdown measures.

He made the observation as he made impromptu visits to fast food outlets and restaurants in Port-of-Spain. The complacency and don’t care attitude of some workers stunned Deyalsingh.

Standing mere feet from a cashier in one establishment, Deyalsingh noticed an elderly female customer placing an order for a meal. To his surprise, both the cashier and customer had no masks on. Seconds later, an employee approached Deyalsingh with no protective covering over her face.

“Where is your mask?” Deyalsingh asked the smiling worker, who indicated she had it in the back.

“Now that is the problem. You are serving food. Where is her mask?” Deyalsingh said, pointing to the cashier, who quickly disappeared.

Deyalsingh said he decided to pay such visits to small, medium and large food establishments. Among the food businesses he visited were doubles vendors, bakeries and restaurants.

“And what we are noticing is a very inconsistent approach to public health,” he said.

He said the biggest infraction was workers in food places preparing, serving meals and attending to customers without wearing masks. However, he said he observed a few establishments had installed glass partitions between the cashiers and customers as a precautionary measure.

“What it now means is that we are going to have to come up with some minimum standards for food establishments to start to implement. We may have to do that by way of regulations. It’s an unfortunate but necessary step now,” Deyalsingh said, adding that all food handlers should wear a mask.

“Should we have to pass a law to do that? No! But we can do it via regulations for food handlers.”

He said the impromptu visits told him they must “get a little more involved with food handlers to do what is right.”