CHIEF Medical Officer Dr Roshan Parasram says this country will have to adapt to a new normal to prepare for the phased lifting of restrictions put in place to slow the spread of the covid19 virus.
Speaking at the daily virtual media briefing on Wednesday, he said people will have to prepare for the enhancement and continuation of the public health measures. He said they will have to create a paradigm shift in their behaviour to ensure the pandemic does not continue to spread.
Parasram said this would include measures such as the continuation of hand hygiene, observing cough etiquette, the use of social distancing and masks where appropriate and the continued sanitisation of surfaces. He said people should stay at home if they or their children were ill.
The CMO said the Public Health Inspectorate will be engaged to ensure that all policies and procedures are known and operationalised nationwide.
He said he cannot estimate how long these measures will have to continue after restrictions are lifted.
Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh said the ministry cannot predict what new regulations will have to be put into place. He said the regulations that apply have legal force under the public health ordinance. He said the new normal is how societies will have to adapt to the virus and the measures put in place to save lives and prevent the spread of the virus from person to person.
The minister said he along with Minister Robert Le Hunte had put together a team composed of occupational safety and health personnel and were working with the Chambers of Commerce, the TTMA, and the restaurant industry to come up with new practices for the time when the Prime Minister is ready to open up certain parts of the economy.
TT Chamber of Commerce CEO Gabriel Faria said the organisation supports the recommendations of the CMO. He said the Chamber has communicated to its members best practices on dealing with staff and customers. He said it has put forward proposals to the government on a risk-based approach to restarting the economy.
One restaurant owner who asked not to be identified, said the new measures will destroy many restaurants which rely on customers eating in-house. He said most will lose a lot of money, although adding takeaway and delivery services will compensate for some of these losses.
He said he was exploring new business models that will incorporate social distancing like turning some of the car parks into drive-through cinemas.
He said at this point, he did not know how many of his staff he would be able to re-hire. He said restaurant owners and other establishments who were previously uncomfortable offering delivery and takeaway would now have to do this because customers would be asking for these services, having become accustomed to them.
Food truck owner Ravi Benny of Another Food Truck in La Romaine said he would now be adding masks to his regular routine of wearing gloves and regular sanitisation of surfaces. He said he had already implemented a call-ahead system, curbside delivery and social distancing measures before restaurants were shut down and would be continuing this policy when allowed to re-open.
He said he would be sanitising surfaces both inside and outside of his truck, using food-safe sanitisers.