RHIANNA MCKENZIE AND ANDREW GIOANNETTI
A GROUP OF police visited Jimmy Aboud's fabric store on Queen Street, Port of Spain, on Thursday morning, then left the business to remain open until its intended closing time.
Newsday reported on Wednesday that a number of downtown stores were still open which do not explicitly fall under the government's list of essential businesses.
When contacted, Commissioner of Police Gary Griffith told Newsday his officers could not police the entire country to search for people and businesses violating the rules, but will respond to reports.
Jimmy Aboud, the only textile store open in the area, stayed open even after police visited shortly after it opened at around 10.30 am. It closed after 1 pm.
Newsday visited the store again around noon and spoke with several customers, one of whom described its interior as being "in a mess," and said people were tightly packed in the narrow aisles.
"They are not practising social distancing," said another customer. "It is very crowded in there (and) everyone is shopping as normal, and not just for material to make masks."
Newsday was unable to reach the store's owner Gregory Aboud to ask if his business had been given special permission to open and if he intended to remain open.
A post on the company's Facebook page on March 29 said it was adhering to the government's guidelines on the closure of non-essential businesses between March 30 and Wednesday.
On Thursday, the day after Griffith said he would look into the issue, Newsday contacted him again.
He said, "Not for every store that is open, I'm going to give a comment. Sorry."
Asked if he was aware the police had visited Jimmy Aboud and why it would be allowed to remain open, he replied, "I did (look into it). But I mean, I can't set a pattern that every single time there's a concern about, 'This man store downtown open, this other man hotdog stall open,' I give a comment...I'm sorry.
"I can't be barking at every car that pass."
Asked if he could offer clarity on whether the business is considered essential, Griffith said, "The clarity is straightforward. Your clarity is in the Public Health Ordinance. Once you read it, you will know for yourself."
The document mentions textiles once in the document which outlines the list of businesses and services which can continue to operate.
The section refers to: "chemical services such as the services of–(i) workers supporting the chemical and industrial gas supply chains, including workers at chemical manufacturing plants, workers in laboratories, workers at distribution facilities, workers who transport basic raw chemical materials to the producers of industrial and consumer goods, including hand sanitisers, food, beverage and food and beverage additives, pharmaceuticals, textiles and paper products."
Elsewhere in Port of Spain queues for entry into banks, pharmacies and supermarkets dominated activity .
The pockets of limers scattered across the Brian Lara Promenade and other typically crowded areas were sparse on Thursday. The police were once again a regular sight, and perhaps less lenient than they had been the previous day.
Most streets were quiet, apart from Charlotte Street, where parking spots were at a premium and traffic remained heavy into the afternoon, looking much like a normal day. But apart from pharmacies, supermarkets and some variety store, stores remained closed, and there were no produce vendors on the street.
Most people wore facemasks as they waited in lengthy lines to get into Pennywise and other stores which are permitted to remain open for business.
At City Gate, which is run by the Public Transport Service Corporation, a kiosk which sells pies and juices, was open again. Several representatives of the PTSC were asked the reason for this, but all directed Newsday's concerns to acting general manager Davis Ragoonanan, who could not be reached.