Peter George

“Fair and reasonable.”

That is how businessman and restaurateur Peter George yesterday described his stance that all unvaccinated staff must pay for and present a negative PCR test every two weeks before coming back out to work at any of his six restaurants.

Failure to do so they will be “left off the roster”.

The details of his directive were contained in a private, internal memo to staff which was leaked on social media yesterday.

In a telephone interview yesterday, George confirmed that the internal document was authentic but said he did not expect it to be made public.

“The point is that we have done everything that we can and the memo is quite clear,” he said.

“I am not going to force anyone to get vaccines. I respect their right to make that decision until such time that the law demands, but if you choose to not be vaccinated, that is your right and I encourage you to do so,” he said.

“But if you don’t, you would wear double-shield, all provided by the company and you would give us a PCR test every two weeks at your expense,” he said.

“It is straightforward and fair,” he said.

The PCR tests cost between $800 and $1,400. Despite the high cost, George denied it was a punitive measure.

“No, it would be seen as respecting their privacy and their right to their body but I have to know because I have hundreds of staff that I have to look after as well,” he said.

“My responsibility is a safe environment for my customers,” he said.

George said the fact that the document was leaked is an indication that someone wanted to “create some storm”.

“I am not trying to strong-arm anyone, I am trying to create an environment that is fair,” he said.

George said that while he has been in discussion with other restaurateurs, this is a personal decision that he has taken for his restaurants and said it is not policy among the establishments.

“Others may do it, they may not do it,” he said.

DOMA, SATT support George’s ‘controversial’ stance

Head of the Downtown Owners and Merchants Association (DOMA) Gregory Aboud yesterday described George’s stance as “controversial” but said that he commended his courage.

Aboud saw the leaked internal memo and supported George’s call for the need for mass vaccination.

“The position that Mr George is taking, even though I recognise that it is a controversial decision and even though I recognise that it will cause ripples, I do recognise that it is courageous of him to state his position as he has done,” Aboud said.

Aboud said that there was a percentage of the country that refused to be vaccinated because of “superstitious reasons”.

“And they are placing at risk, everybody else including those who have to pay the bills. The general consensus in support of the vaccination are from those who had to bear the hardest burden of the shutdowns,” he said.

Aboud said that those hardest hit were forced to come up with solutions.

“I would be the first to admit that there is great disparity among those who are for and against the vaccine but in the majority of cases, those who were against the vaccination have only been coming up with threads of vague reasons for being against the vaccine,” he said.

Aboud said the topic was “divisionary” and said that even within his own family there are disagreements over the vaccination.

Aboud said that his view is based on scientific evidence and he was influenced that some 99.4 per cent that all hospital and Intensive Care Unit (ICU) admissions in the US were unvaccinated.

Aboud said that he expected George to face backlash for his statement but warned that many are acting as the “champions of the poor but were only pointing in the direction of conflict while not assisting the cause of escaping COVID-19”.

While Aboud applauded George, he said it is the decision for each business owner to make for his own business.

He cited several countries internationally and regionally that have begun speaking in more aggressive terms about rules to enforce vaccination.

Meanwhile, the head of the Supermarkets Association of T&T, Rajiv Diptee yesterday said he was not surprised by George’s stance.

“I expect that soon some measure of responsibility for refusal to be vaccinated will have to be borne by those hesitant at this time which is unfortunate,” Diptee said.

“The intention is well-meaning in that unvaccinated persons have a higher incidence for transmission of the virus as well being vectors for spread,” he added.

“It does not match up to the national mandate of herd immunity so we expect businesses that do not want to yo-yo in cycles of lockdown and reopening to enforce strict measures to protect their livelihoods, their staff and their customers,” Diptee said.

Aboud takes similar stance

Fellow businessman Gerald Aboud posted a similar statement to social media, stating that as of August 31, no unvaccinated staff member would be allowed in his business.

In a subsequent interview, Aboud said that he would not weigh in on George’s statement and that his company would release a statement later on.

Aboud’s company, Starlite Pharmacy, used financial incentives to encourage staff to be vaccinated.

“And we did not offer temporary incentives, we offered permanent incentives, up to five per cent permanent increase for any staff that gets vaccinated and there is a lot of hesitancy,” he said.

“Is it correct that I ask my vaccinated staff to mix with staff that are 75 per cent more transmissible?” he asked.

Aboud made specific mention of the Delta variant which has not been found in the country as yet but is already in the region.

“The mask will most likely not protect you in close spaces. How can I reasonably ask vaccinated staff to put themselves at risk because certain staff do not want to be vaccinated?” he asked.

“Is that fair?” he said.

Aboud said that the majority of his staff have been vaccinated but he was concerned about the growing number of people refusing vaccines.