Water parks were stopped in their tracks on Thursday from opening with non-water activities for the Easter weekend.
It has been over a year since Five Islands Water and Amusement Park and Skallywag in Chaguaramas, Harry’s Water Park in Rio Claro and Fun Splash Water Park in Debe closed because of restrictions on water activities as outlined in the Public Health Ordinance to control the spread of covid19. Only public beaches are open between 6 am to 6 pm.
In the lead up to the long holiday weekend, these establishments advertised non-water activities by appointments, but with an increase in covid19 deaths and new cases, the Ministry of Health on Thursday afternoon rolled back measures for recreational sports and group activities. Chief Medical Officer Dr Roshan Parasram said the large number of people in savannahs and community grounds participating in sporting activities without face masks or shields, and in close proximity to each other, “has been shown to be the nidus (focus of infection) of the spread in TT and everywhere else in the world.”
Water parks such as Five Islands advertised on Facebook page that it would be opened from March 29 to April 15 catering only to non-water activities based on the opening up of sporting activities in early March. These activities included go-carts, surfing, and paintball in private groups of ten.
Director of marketing and sales at Five Islands Louanna Borde told Newsday via Whatsapp messages on Thursday morning that the operations for the Easter weekend would be based on appointments.
“All covid19 safety protocols are in place, temperature testing, data collection, physical distancing, numerous handwashing and sanitiser stations, signage, rigorous cleaning and sanitizing regime, mask wearing mandatory and much more.” When asked if there was any progress about the discussion with the authority on the matter, Borde said “We are not really interested in doing an interview at this time.” But by Thursday evening, Borde said, “We just got updated and we are still in discussions. We await the formal legislation changes which we will review.” When Newsday visited the facility on Friday the gates were shut and there were no activities. Similarly, Harry’s Water Park was non-operational on Friday. Only the cabins were opened for rental, but a representative told Newsday bookings were slow. Owner Harrypersad Ragoonanan could not be reached for comment on Friday.
In an interview with Newsday on Thursday morning, Ragoonanan said he had to reorganise but the few activities and rental of cabins could not compensate for the losses. He said the use of the conference room for weddings, birthday parties and other events have also been minimal.
“The use of these facilities is done by bookings to ensure that we are within the protocols, but people are not coming because the activities are limited, and the waterslides are really the main attraction.
“I don’t think Harry’s will make it to the end of the year. Just recently I had to layoff 20 people again. Although the waterpark is closed it still has to be maintained from income that I do not have.” Ragoonanan
claimed waterpark owners have tried reaching out to Minister of Health Terrence Deyalsingh and Chief Medical Officer Dr Roshan Parasram to discuss a way forward for their businesses but were yet to receive a response.
Newsday also attempted to get clarification on the operations of such establishments from Deyalsingh and Parasram, but was unsuccessful.