MINISTER in the Office of the Prime Minister Stuart Young and Trade and Industry Minister Paula Gopee-Scoon said some businesses are flouting the public health and state of emergency (SoE) regulations.
They warned this could result in an increase in covid19 cases and undermine efforts to begin a phased reopening of the economy, once the rise in covid19 cases is stopped and reversed.
Young and Gopee-Scoon raised this concern after a virtual meeting between the Government and private-sector representatives about the covid19 restrictions and the economy.
At a virtual news conference after the meeting, Young said, "Everybody has a role to play. So we know there are certain businesses who are trying to find ways around the regulations. It is really putting persons at risk."
He said one of the things Government is trying to achieve is a phased reopening of the economy as covid19 cases are brought under control.
"Please try to work with us, work with the Government, work with everyone going forward. Do not try to find ways to get around the regulations."
He reiterated that the movement of people is what spreads the virus. If we reduce that movement, if we do that now, we are going to see better days."
Young explained the objective of the meeting was to get recommendations from the private sector about covid19, covid19 restrictions and the economy. He said Government continues to listen to all stakeholders and the organisations that attended the meeting have been asked to submit their recommendations in writing for the Government's consideration.
He added the meeting was not about taking decisions on either the public health or the SoE regulations. "Government has made no decision."
Some business representatives, he said, were not opposed to Government implementing even stricter measures to enforce public compliance to reduce covid19 cases.
"They were advocating to us today that any further restrictions that are needed to be put in place by the Government, it was better to take a bitter medicine now, and we have the results sooner rather than later."
Gopee-Scoon said while there are businesses doing online activities under the current restrictions, connected to some of those activities is the physical movement of people, which could spread covid19.
While activities such as taking orders and delivering items to people's homes do not involve a lot of physical contact, she said, "But where we have restaurants allowing their persons to cook and so on..in the kitchens...then deliver to a supermarket...two wrongs are being done there."
The first wrong, Gopee-Scoon explained, was that restaurants are not allowed to operate under the regulations. The second wrong was these restaurants sending their prepared meals to supermarkets, she said, "adding another trend of traffic" as people go to get those meals.
While supermarkets are essential businesses and there is nothing wrong with people buying prepared foods at supermarkets, Gopee-Scoon said, "But not to the extent that we are seeing now."
On the entities engaging in this activity, she added, "I am not only talking about small restaurants. I am talking about very large restaurants (that) are in fact doing that, where they are having their kitchens operational and they are in fact sending in their goods."
Neither Young nor Gopee-Scoon identified any of these businesses by name.
Asked whether allowing restaurants to allow curbside pickups and deliveries to customers could reduce this activity, Gopee-Scoon said, "We know we have to look at curbside (pickup), we know we have to look at deliveries...we know we have to do that...but we have to leave it in the hands of that particular body of persons who are looking at both sides...the lives and the livelihoods."
Under the adjusted public health regulations that began on May 4, all food services were discontinued. On May 22, the Prime Minister said these regulations, which were scheduled to end on May 23, would be extended to July 4.
Gopee-Scoon and Young said July 4 was "not a rigid date" and the regulations could be eased sooner, depending on how covid19 cases are managed.
Supermarkets Association president Rajiv Diptee said, "Prepared meals will continue to be allowed to be sold prepackaged means at supermarkets."
But he added, " We are not encouraging the replenishment of meals beyond a fixed number for a daily period and will not be advertising them, as it attracts the culture of the daily shopper.
"This is something we are urging compliance with from our bigger stores in particular the chains."