WITH new covid19 infections rising daily and the potentially more virulent Brazilian variant of the virus confirmed locally, the Supermarket Association (SATT) is moving to implement a one person per family quota for shoppers in order to limit crowds – especially at month end – at groceries and supermarkets.
In the past seven days, TT saw 731 new cases and four deaths.
SATT president Rajiv Diptee said this plan is aimed at encourage the public to shop in the smallest number.
He told Newsday on Tuesday that families have been using supermarkets to meet and spend time with each other while shopping. “They want the whole family to be there and we are doing as much as we can to have some control, but to say we can have total control...we’ll be lying to ourselves.”
He said although supermarket owners are doing the best they can, they find themselves constantly having to remind customers to wash their hands, physical distance and wear their masks correctly.
“We have instructed the supermarkets to take precaution with the month-end that’s coming up because what we are seeing right now is a lot of pandemic fatigue where people are tired and frustrated with the covid19 restrictions.”
As one way to remedy the crowd issue, members of the association have committed on their social media pages, to manage the crowds by encouraging customers to allow only one person per family to shop and leaving other family members, especially those in the high-risk category such as the elderly, safely at home.
Diptee warned however, if customers behave irresponsibly and flout covid19 guidelines there is nothing more supermarkets can do.
“We are pleading with customers to understand that the case loads have been going up and they need to do their part. They know what they have to do, we just want them to keep doing it.
“We have had some customers showing up telling us they cannot leave their children, their sick or elderly at home and in some cases bringing the family is unavoidable.
“We have been working with the medical association to put things in place, so we have a formula for the management of crowd control. At the same time, the responsibility lies with the customer to ensure that they follow the protocols,” Diptee said.
Only on Tuesday, Tru Valu Supermarket's Long Circular branch announced two covid19 cases, after reporting one case at its Trincity branch on April 17 and March 31. Diptee described this news as worrying for both customers and employees.
POLICE LOOK AT SUPERMARKETS
ACP Wendell Williams, the TTPS representative on the multi-sectoral committee to treat with covid19, told Newsday not much thought had gone into monitoring supermarkets and groceries, but he agreed there was a need for greater focus on managing crowds at these places.
He said there haven’t been any report from the police's command centre on overcrowding at supermarkets. “The supermarkets are an area we must look at and I will make a recommendation for a heavier police focus on supermarkets.”
“I realise if we try to get over specific, focusing on the places that normally give problems you tend to miss things that are right in front your face, that no one is reporting.”
In April 2020, Commissioner of Police Gary Griffith, at a press conference, sternly warned supermarkets, banks and markets to ensure their customers follow the public health guidelines. Griffith vowed to shut down any business that fails to have its customers obey the law when conducting business.
This came after videos surfaced on social media showing large crowds in and around banks and supermarkets. The commissioner maintained, in a subsequent press release, that he has all authority to arrest anyone who is in breach of covid19 public health regulations.
Two weeks ago, Minister of Health Terrence Deyalsingh announced new regulations which reduced the number of people allowed to gather in public from ten to five and prohibited access to beaches. All in-house dining at bars, casinos and restaurants were also banned.
He also ordered that no one gather in public for entertainment purposes including concerts and only ten people are allowed at a wedding or funeral while the public service once again reverted to a rotation system which sees 50 per cent of the workforce at home. Places of worship must also only have 25 per cent of normal seating capacity with worshippers physically distanced. All measures remain in force until May 16.