KINNESHA GEORGE-HARRY and STEPHON NICHOLAS
A Tobago businessman has described the latest anti-covid19 restrictions announced by the Prime Minister as "unfair."
The businessman spoke to Newsday moments after Dr Rowley closed all food establishments, including street and itinerant vendors, all non-essential retail outlets. In addition, essential businesses may open only between 6 am and 8 pm.
These measures will come into effect from midnight on Monday until May 23.
In the interim, malls, bars, restaurants, churches, gyms, casinos, cinemas, and theatres will remain closed.
A frustrated Anthony Durham, owner of Gold Teeth Fashion in Canaan, said his businessplace has done everything that was asked.
He said signs about covid19 safety are installed; there is a strict policy on mask-wearing; a temperature gun to check customers is there; and there is sanitiser for customers on entry.
Durham said, “It’s really unfair – I follow all protocols, all protocols I follow. I do not play; I am a very serious businessman and to know that I have to fall in this bracket, that is a pain. Is like I making ten steps forward and 100 steps backwards – it unfair to me.”
He said in 2020 when similar measures were taken, he still had to pay all his bills which was inconvenient for him.
“I had was to pay my rent, nobody did address that. My rent is $10,500 – I had was to pay my rent normal and still try to give my workers a little change because them and all have to live. My light bill – I still had to pay my light bill.”
Durham said he did not benefit from any relief grant from the Tobago House of Assembly
"Nothing. When I went to them is a whole book (of requirements). When I went over the highway and I talk to the big man, he say, 'Small business, big business is $2,500.' That is not for me, That is for people renting house. I lose. I lose real money."
He said he currently has two workers at his businessplace. He said he previously had four but two were sent home last year.
Durham is adamant that the government could have dealt with the situation in a different way.
“What they suppose to do first, they doing it last – lock down the borders and keep the (illegal migrants) and them from coming in where they coming in from, but they didn’t do that.
“The second thing they were supposed to do, instead of telling everybody come, come to Tobago for Easter, they shouldn’t have tell everybody that because at the end of the day, me ent make no more money. I come like I make less money. In a normal time, I does make more money, so I really think the government contribute in creating this problem.”
One retail clothes boutique owner in Scarborough said he would be compliant under the conditions
Newsday spoke with two food vendors along the Milford Road who accepted the restrictions.
A doubles vendor, who declined to be named, said: “It was expected sooner or later, to be honest. I mean, I am affected but our health is important at this time – it is a pandemic, unfortunately.”
Chamber: What's the vaccination plan?
Tobago Business Chamber president Martin George has called for a "proper plan for vaccination" to accompany the stringent measures.
George said he understood why the strict restrictions were announced but he said "mass vaccinations" should be taking place during this time.
George said, "The Tobago Business Chamber notes with concern the latest restrictions imposed by the Government and while we express out continued support to curb and control this pandemic, without a proper plan for vaccinations you can't just simply have the restrictions. Without that, we're spinning top in mud."
George said TT is finding itself in a detrimental cycle.
"If you look at it, one year later after the massive lockdown of 2020, here we are with another lockdown. The countries that have vaccinated have shown the way. They have shown that with the vaccinations they are able to open the economy faster.
"That is the only way TT can see its way out of this crisis."
George said the Government must announce its plan.
"The populations is saying: give us your plan for mass vaccination of the population to achieve herd immunity."
The Ministry of Health resumed its vaccination drive on Monday at 29 sites across the country.
Rowley previously announced that the Government will not be reserving jabs to complete the two-dose inoculation of the AstraZeneca vaccines but would administer as many first doses as possible.
TT is expected to receive its second trance of vaccines from Covax this month.
Dennis: It's necessary to avoid calamity
Chief Secretary Ancil Dennis has described the latest restrictions as “necessary.”
He said: “It is necessary to prevent further calamity.”
In its latest update, the Division of Health, Wellness and Family Development said there were no new cases on the island, while there are 46 active cases. One patient was discharged. The release said deaths remained at two.
With that, he said there is no time for complacency.
“We are to find no comfort in our numbers. A deadly virus is among us, and complacency can be costly.”