Vivek Maharaj plays in the sand at Vessigny Beach, Vessigny, yesterday.

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Despite torrential rainfall and a stern warning from Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh not to congregate, thousands of people flocked to the beaches and rivers across the country yesterday.

In South Trinidad, the popular Carrat Shed Beach in La Brea was filled with hundreds of people.While the rains poured, scores of people stood under a shed at the beachfront. Most people wore no masks and did not practice physical distancing.

Randy Ballack, of Princes Town, said they decided on the spur of the moment to go to the beach after hearing the new lockdown measures announced on Saturday.

“The last time we had to wait so long to come to the beach, so this morning I and my wife and a few others from the family decided to come here.”

Ballack did not wear a mask and when asked why he said he had one in the car.

“Really, we should be wearing it but we have to eat and drink, so that’s why we are not wearing it now,” Ballack said.

Davidson Smart, from the Revival Mission Pentecostal Church in La Romaine, said they went to the beach to do baptisms.

“We had five baptisms to do and a group of us came here,” Smart said.

A group of motorbike riders were also on the beach and none of them wore masks.

Children played in the sand and many people were seen congregating close to each other, buying snacks and other items.

At Vessigny Beach, lifeguard Carlos Ferriar said more people were visiting the beach compared to a regular Sunday.

“This morning we did not have a lot but towards the evening, much more people came. This is an evening beach. When the tide comes up, that is when people come,” he said.

Ferriar said most people did not abide with COVID-19 protocols.

Janelle Williams, a vendor at Vessigny Beach, said she was worried about her loss of income once the beaches close.

“The last lockdown was terrible for me. I was selling from my house but after a while people stopped coming,” Williams said.

She added that she also never got a grant for her loss of earnings.

“I applied and I helped many people to fill applications and I don’t know of anyone who got it,” she added.

Radol Poolchand, who went to the beach with his Venezuelan girlfriend Miriam Boliver and her two children, aged eight and three, said he had planned his beach lime long before the Government announced the COVID-19 restrictions.“I had promised to bring him and that’s why we came,” Poolchan said.

Rachael Pierre and her family, of Gasparillo, said they too had planned to visit the beach before.

“We are wearing our masks and sanitising. We are taking COVID, seriously,” she said.Police said there were also crowds at the Quinam Beach as well as the beaches in Mayaro and Guayaguayare.

However, there was tragedy for one family at the Clifton Hill Beach in Point Fortin, where Dhanraj Ramnarine drowned. Ramnarine was reportedly at the beach celebrating his birthday with family when he got into difficulty while in the water. His body was removed to the San Fernando Mortuary.