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A man walks on High Street, San Fernando, during the State of Emergenc cuefew, on Monday.

RHONDOR DOWLAT-ROSTANT

With Monday’s Indian Arrival Day public holiday extended daylight curfew hours being a success where hardly people were seen out and about and T&T was virtually at a standstill some members of the business community are saying that they will support the Government if it sees fit to extend curfew hours on weekends as a way forward in an attempt to flatten the curve during the current COVID-19 pandemic.

That same behaviour of citizens seen on Monday and one which was highly praised by the Commissioner of Police Gary Griffith is predicted for today, the Corpus Christi holiday during its extended daylight curfew hours.

President of the Downtown Owners and Merchants Association (DOMA), Gregory Aboud, when contacted by the Guardian Media, said the association is in favour of any measures which are deemed necessary to break the stranglehold which COVID-19 has over the country.

“If the increased restrictions which the government has imposed bring the desired results then we can see no fault or reason to disagree with that strategy,” Aboud said.

He, however, added that it will have to be evidence-based.

“We without the benefit of background in science can say that we have observed that early restrictions of a more severe nature provided desirable results in neighbouring Islands especially in Grenada and Barbados. The escape route from the high rate of infections and the high mortality rate seems to be linked very clearly to a high vaccination rate,” Aboud said.

“In that regard we are concerned that there might be a degree of vaccination hesitancy among the cross-section of our citizens,” he added and subsequently suggested that the government improve vaccine acceptance.

“Increase the public’s confidence in the vaccine by allowing those who are properly vaccinated to travel more easily into and out of Trinidad and to not subject persons who have been properly vaccinated to lengthy quarantine periods. Such a vote of confidence in the vaccine by the government will add to public’s confidence in taking the vaccine and we hope that more vaccines can be acquired and that the actions taken by those in authority will encourage the public to be less reluctant to taking those vaccines,” he said.

President of the Arima Business Association Reval Chattergoon also said that support for extended lockdown hours will be given if the Government seriously sees the need to further restrictions.

“We need to remember the reason why the curfew was imposed on the two public holidays: to prevent congregation of people as seen during the vigils and Easter holidays. Unfortunately, we are here now because of the absence of discipline and abundance of selfishness within the population,” Chattergoon said.

“While the blame for increased numbers in May is being passed from the Government to the Opposition, to vigils and Easter we forget that we are in this situation now because we as citizens have not complied with health regulations. We have not empathized with those who have been hospitalized, those who have died from COVID-19 and the health workers who work tirelessly to save lives,” he added.

He noted that as the citizens of Trinidad, the minimum wage workers, those living paycheck to paycheck are depending on everyone to adhere to the health regulations because the country needs to get back on track and reopen, “The sooner we act responsibly, the COVID positive cases will decrease, the sooner businesses can reopen and employees can return to their jobs to provide for their families.”

“The ABA suggested increased restrictions at the end of April and we were chastised for having foresight that the numbers were increasing and the situation needed to be controlled with urgency as businesses were already closing and consumer confidence was not there. To suggest an increased curfew now would be harsh because businesses are worse off now than when they were in April and with many businesses being closed, employees cannot earn an income to provide for their family,” Chattergoon said.

“Financial relief for businesses remains on a case by case basis with no assurance that relief would be granted, utilities need to be paid and sadly with online transactions on the rise, the internet services available by providers leave much to be desired. The economy needs to reopen but for that to happen citizens need to act responsibly.

We are into the fifth week of increased restrictions with over 13000 new positive cases and over 320 deaths occurring in May and we are still seeing individuals being fined for not wearing masks, disregarding health protocols, congregating, having parties and rejecting vaccination efforts aimed at creating herd immunity for those unable to take any vaccines. If the COVID positive numbers remain high and individuals continue to flout the COVID restrictions then the Government will have no alternative but to increase restrictions to which we will have to support,” he added.