Port-of-Spain Mayor Joel Martinez, Trade Minister Paula Gopee-Scoon and DOMA president Gregory Aboud during a walkabout on the first day of the retail sector’s reopening along Frederick Street, Port-of-Spain, yesterday.

Downtown Owners and Merchants Association (DOMA) head Gregory Aboud said yesterday that he is concerned another lockdown could be the final nail in the coffin for business owners in the capital city.

Following months of closed doors, retail stores reopened yesterday and as swiftly as sales restarted, there came a stern warning that the country cannot afford to slip up again.

Aboud said any more COVID-19 restrictions could cripple businesses for good.

“This is all about trying to protect the country from another shutdown, which we can ill afford and which I might want to signal in advance that the private sector will be unable to do the type of subsistence and stipend support as far as salaries go if we have a third shutdown.”

Port-of-Spain mayor Joel Martinez and Trade and Industry Minister Paula Gopee-Scoon joined Aboud on a tour of retail businesses yesterday. Aboud said he was heartened to see the city pulsing with business activities after a debilitating period.

He said while business owners were not strong-arming staff to vaccinate against the COVID-19 virus, he pleaded with shoppers to be responsible since the industry’s future hinges on their behaviour towards the pandemic.

“The truth is, if you protect yourself, and your staff and you force those who come to your business to be covered, face masks, temperature checks, sanitation and so on, then you have every reason to be safe and I don’t think we want to get to the stage of saying a New York City where they have a differentiation in rights of vaccine and unvaccinated people.”

Gopee-Scoon said she was not satisfied with the vaccination rate among those in the sector and cautioned against being lulled into complacency.

“Employees have to be vaccinated, safeguard themselves, safeguard their families and of course their employers safeguarding their business interest. Nobody wants a closure again.”

Meanwhile, the public can brace for a return of wrecking in the city, as mayor Martinez said measures will be taken against indiscriminate parking expected with the increase in traffic.

“The reason why we stopped wrecking was that the city was under the pandemic. You don’t want to add additional stress for anybody, but at some stage we’re going to have to bring it back, as one indiscriminate person will bring confusion and there will have traffic backed up from here to Maraval.”