Customers shop at Massy Stores in La Romaine yesterday.

Rishard Khan

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National Security Minister Stuart Young says businesses need to act responsibly as the country faces off with COVID-19, which has infected some 700,000 and killed over 33,000 worldwide.

He made the comment yesterday in response to questions posed by Guardian Media following several reports that some essential businesses may not be adhering to the regulations set out in the Public Health Ordinance to govern the “Stay-at-Home” measures for the next two weeks.

Employees from several small and large chain businesses complained to Guardian Media yesterday that their employers were forcing staff members who aren’t essential to operations to turn up for work, contravening Section 3 (1) (a) of the Ordinance.

“The regulations state that even in essential businesses only essential workers and those that cannot work from home should be physically at work,” Young said in a WhatsApp response yesterday.

“The COVID-19 virus doesn’t respect anything or anyone and we are fighting it being spread. So the owners and managers of essential businesses must be responsible and respect and implement the request for stay-at-home measures … Surely it is not for the state to police each essential business.”

One person who spoke to Guardian Media on condition of anonymity for both themselves and their employer said all employees at a pharmacy’s head office were given letters and deemed “essential.” However, the employee noted that many of those present can adequately perform their functions from home.

“When one employee asked about work from home options … it was stated that because they were on short-term contract employment, that provision would not be possible. The employee fills the role of a data entry clerk. This is clearly a non-essential function at this time but the chain has mandated the employee come out five days a week over the course of the time when there are specific instructions to stay at home,” the employee said.

“(The employee is) now in a position whereby they are forced to choose their employment or the health of themselves or their loved ones.”

Another employee of a local food product manufacturer, who also spoke under the condition of anonymity, said they were being refused the option of working from home although their tasks can be done remotely.

“Basically, all my valid options are; coming out to work so I can get paid or stay home with no pay. I’ve communicated that I’m willing to work from home. However it seems to not matter,” the person said.