Managing director of Penny Savers Supermarket, Tobago Kurt Warner, said people must take personal responsibility for their well-being by adhering to the Government's social distancing guidelines to prevent the spread of the coronavirus (covid19).
He said supermarket owners cannot be blamed if people do not want to take care of themselves. Warner was responding on Thursday last week to Police Commissioner Gary Griffith's statement that he would order the closure of supermarkets, banks and other institutions if people do not follow the covid19 rules on social distancing.The Government has said, public gatherings should not exceed five people.Warner said he was taken aback by Griffith's statement.
"My interpretation of it was that it was an extreme statement made by the commissioner," Warner told Newsday.
"I am not questioning his powers or authority, but if I am not mistaken, the Prime Minister did state that that is not going to happen in the first instance. So him putting out that statement to me that sounds a bit extreme."
Warner said supermarket and other business owners are doing the best they can in the circumstances. "The thing is, businesses are doing a lot that they can do at this point in time – the banks, supermarkets and pharmacies. Yes, we are exercising the social distancing inside, we are doing the crowd control at the doors, we put down the markers on the floor. Some businesses even went as far as putting the markers outside.
"But if persons are not adhering to that, there is not much the businesses can do now." Warner said if Griffith felt so strongly about the situation, he should have police officers posted outside of these establishments. "The businesses should not incur that cost. But if he is pushing towards that then I am saying the businesses should be manned by an officer on the location."
Warner said while the supermarket has incurred some losses in sales as a result of covid19, he is more concerned about his customers. "We are just looking at ourselves as essentials in providing the services for consumers to access what they need."It has been challenging on management, staff, everybody. It has taken a toll on us. It started from the panic buying. Then we went into the month-end buying."
Warner added the supermarket's operating costs have increased."The expenses that are being incurred on a daily basis by the businesses are tremendous. I am not going to try to quote figures, but it is tremendous in additional expenses, trying to put in the infrastructure to keep the consumer and staff safe."Saying hand sanitisers have been installed at all registers, he said some businesses have also put screens between staff and consumers.
"We are actually in the process of doing that and some persons might ask, 'Why is it taking so long to happen?'"But this thing (covid19) has had an impact. All of the businesses are trying to act at the same time. So now we are calling on tradesmen and service providers to do all of these things at the same time, which is hard for them also."Despite the challenges confronting the island's business sector, Warner said the supermarket has not sent home any of its staff.
"We have not had to send home anybody. We have a shift system at the supermarket's outlets and pharmacy. So nobody was displaced from our organisation."Penny Savers Supermarket in Tobago has three outlets - Carnbee, Canaan and Scarborough.