In response to reports that physical distancing and safety guidelines were flouted by bar patrons, National Security Minister Stuart Young on Monday announced that there would be a new schedule for the operating hours of bars to clamp down on errant customers.
Speaking at a media briefing, Young said due to the behaviour of certain patrons, government took a decision to readjust the opening hours of bars from 8 am to 8 pm.
Young also said bar owners would be held liable if they allowed more than 25 patrons in at a time during their opening hours and warned that if caught they could face criminal charges under the Public Health Ordinance.
“The unfortunate behaviour of people gathering in bars and outside of bars. One of the first steps we took was to avoid congregation, what we saw from the first weekend of bars being open has greatly disturbed us.
“A warning was given over the weekend by both the Prime Minister and Minister Deyalsingh we have taken this step to give another opportunity not so much only to the bar operators and owners but also to the patrons. Today we will roll back and bars will be allowed to open on 8 am and close at 8 pm.
“Outside more importantly, people are not allowed to gather in groups more than 25 people. You can expect the police service to do the necessary enforcement. In the first instance they will ask bar owners, anyone with more than 25 people in their establishment and they are not adhering to the Ministry of Health protocols for bars, they will be closed. Those people outside, if they are congregating more than 25, the police will warn people.”
Responding to whether he felt measures rolled out by the TT Beverage Alcohol Alliance and other stakeholders were enough to bring about enforcement of public health regulations at bars, Young noted that the ultimate responsibility fell on the public and the bar owners to act responsibly.
“It was a step in the right direction. We think it was a very mature and responsible action but at the end of the day our clear message today is the bar owners, bar operators and patrons will ultimately be responsible.
“All that does in our opinion is put some pressure on the bar operators. It is up to the patrons and the operators from the National Security perspective.”
For his part Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh chided bars and their customers for their failure to follow the public health regulations and warned that if left unchecked, the public could risk undoing all the successes made by the government.
Citing rising cases of the coronavirus in the US and the rest of the world, Deyalsingh said the threat of new infections was still very possible and urged the public to do be responsible.
“Between Saturday and last night, both Minister Young, myself and I dare say the honourable PM has been monitoring what’s going on with the bars. We are in the midst of a global pandemic and while he have done well so far, we cannot allow one industry to send us back to the dark ages.
“If we continue to conduct ourselves in a way that breaches all the public health measures we have put in place it means our hospital systems would be overwhelmed, we may have to stop allowing nationals to come back in because we would need those facilities to treat with community spread by the hundreds and the thousands.”
Deyalsingh said the baton was passed to the public and industries and said he was personally disappointed in the reports that some bars were failing to comply with the regulations which he said could potentially erase the progress made by the nation.