Car dealerships and all manufacturing will reopen on Monday. And the long-anticipated opening of restaurants and other food establishments, inlcuding street food, takes place on July 19, but for limited services only. On the same day, people who want to engage in outdoor exercise will be allowed to do so, but only in numbers of up to five.
These were the rollback measures the Prime Minister announced on Saturday during a news conference at the Diplomatic Centre in St Ann's. Against the background of some restaurant owners expressing concerns about the survival of their businesses and some restaurants converting themselves into supermarkets, Rowley said, "The next big group of people that we will try to get back to some kind of semi-normal arrangement is the food establishments and restaurants, itinerant and non-itinerant businesses, curbside pickup and take-out, deliveries and drive-through only."
Rowley said there is good reason why the reopening was not starting before July 19. "I know my people and from the experiences that we have had, we want to avoid the effects of the euphoria," he said.
He urged citizens to "take it slowly" and not congregate at restaurants and food establishments. And on street food Rowley said, "I know you're missing the doubles... when you go in the line...remember stay six feet away from the person in front of you... wear your mask and have clean hands at all times."
With the wider reopening of the economy, Rowley said tens of thousands of people will be interacting with each other again but this would happening "in parallel to the major vaccination programme."
With 800,000 vaccines from China expected on Tuesday, Rowley hoped that "by the end of July, we would be talking about further significant, removal of restrictions." He said, "That leaves us to hope that August will be back to some semblance of what we knew before May."
He said plans to reopen the border remain on target for July 17 despite the existence of the delta variant. He said he did not understand concerns circulating about operations of the Arthur NR Robinson International Airport in Tobago. He said the Tobago airport is open to international traffic and international business but only to vaccinated nationals and vaccinated non-nationals. "So vaccinated nationals coming home can enter through Tobago or through Trinidad."
The TT Chamber of Industry and Commerce welcomed Rowley's announcements on the phased lifting of restrictions but said it had hoped the retail sector would have also been reopened in the same manner.
"We would have liked this to be extended to online retail sales and delivery. These companies have invested in digital infrastructure and are able to conduct business responsibly, while keeping staff and customers safe and providing much needed services," the chamber said in a statment. However, it was please about the imminent arrival of more vaccines next week and remained committed to working with the Health Ministry and other private sector organisations "in the vaccination effort for the business community."
The TT Manufacturers Association (TTMA) welcomed the opening of the entire manufacturing sector on Monday, and the restaurant industry for takeout, curbside and delivery. "This is a step in the right direction to get the gears of the manufacturing sector grinding again which will lead to the stimulation of the economy." The TTMA said increasing the rate of vaccinations will unlock jobs and lead to a continual uptake of the economy.
Southern Sales director Reyaz Ahamad said dealerships were ready to operate once more.
"The Automotive Dealers Association, the new car dealers...even before the lockdown...we had very robust protocols in place," he said. Ahamad said over the past months, "we had imports of vehicles that we have had to pay taxes for...and while we were closed..pay all the essentials, including salaries and so forth." Automotive Dealers Association president Ryan Latchu said while car dealerships were allowed to operate before July 12 for emergency automotive repairs (of national security vehicles and health ministry vehicles), "The ability to sell vehicles and spare parts created an entirely different dynamic for the economy."
He said the reopening of the Licensing Office on Monday also "gives us the assurance that the automotive sector's primary activity will be supported and sustained." Latchu said,"We maintain that we will operate in a safety conscious manner with rostered employees, an appointment based system for vehicle dealer activities and use of our contactless solutions."
Greater Chaguanas Chamber of Commerce president Richie Sookhai said Rowley's announcements was "definitely positive news." He said, "It would get the economic wheel to start turning once more." But Sookhai added it could take several months for many of the closed businesses to rebound to a reasonable capacity, after being closed for several months.
This story was originally published with the title "Car dealerships reopen Monday, restaurants – curbside and takeaway only – on July 19" and has been adjusted to include additional details. See original post below.
Car dealerships will be allowed to reopen for business on Monday, and curbside and take-out services at restaurants and other food establishments will resume on July 19. And all manufacturing can restart on Monday as well, the Prime Minister announced on Saturday.
Dr Rowley made the announcements at a news conference at the Diplomatic Centre in St Ann's.
Rowley also said on July 19, state of emergency (SoE) regulations which restrict outdoor activity will be relaxed a little to allow people to exercise outdoors. But he said team sports are not going to be allowed at this time as part of the resumption of outdoor activities.
While he would have liked to reopen the food sector on July 16, Rowley said, this was not happening then, to guard against "the effects of the euphoria" and prevent people congregating en masse at these locations. "I know my people." He said these establishments will be given a week to prepare to reopen.
The announcement came against a background of requests from owners of restaurants and other food establishments to be allowed to reopen because some of them are on the verge of permanent closure.