The public will still be able to go to the shop, grocery and drug store from Monday. But if you’re not doing that and aren’t among certain essential services which continue operating, you’ll have to tell police why you’re outside and could ultimately face a $50,000 fine and six months’ jail.
Ministries and municipal corporations are also among a list of essential services remaining open after tomorrow night’s “Stay Home” mandate. But after that, motor vehicles, including maxis, taxis and PTSC buses, will be limited to 50 per cent capacity.
National Security Minister Stuart Young on Friday announced essential sectors which will continue operating from Monday as Government bids to contain the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
“This is our only fighting chance to flatten the (virus’) curve. We’ll only get through this if everybody abides by the advice being given by our medical experts,” Young said at Friday’s press conference, where the Health Ministry confirmed a second COVID patient - an elderly person with pre-existing conditions - had died.
T&T now has 66 cases with 453 samples being tested. Forty-seven of the 66 came from the group which recently returned from a Caribbean cruise. But one patient has tested negative and been discharged must now self-isolate for a seven-day period.
Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh said this weekend is the ‘tipping point” on how the caseload moves - particularly regarding the 19,000-odd people who returned from abroad recently.
Following the first COVID-19 death on Wednesday, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley announced a “deepening” of curtailing of non-essential operations until April 15. It’s not a state of emergency or lockdown but law enforcement is empowered to deal with those who violate laws and measures and they’ll be policing the “Stay Home” effort firmly, Young said.
He added, “We ‘ve done this on medical experts’ advice to protect the public and contain social contact. It’s not business as usual. Persons shouldn’t be at work unless in essential businesses - even then, only essential workers. All workers should work from home.
“Not because you’re an essential business, you should have all employees at work. Scale back, I suggest companies issue letters to various workers.”
The long list of essential businesses includes corner shops, groceries, discount and convenience stores - like Pricesmart - which supply food, pharmaceuticals and other supplies. He said no more than 10 people would be allowed in groceries and pharmacies at a time - but social distancing must be maintained.
Ministries and municipal corporations will remain open, as well as Inland Revenue, Treasury, Central Bank and Customs/Excise. All other Government services will close. Young said ministries and corporations will examine and decide on essential services and those who can work from home.
Other services continuing include the magistracy, judiciary, Industrial Court and legal services. Parliament, Cabinet and Cabinet sub-committee meetings and Tobago House of Assembly meetings. All emergency and protective services continue, as well as utility, sanitation, telecommunications, homes for the elderly, rehab centres and funeral homes.
NLCB games shelved until April 15
National Lotteries Control Board operations will be suspended until April 15, exercising outdoors is banned and furniture, clothing, cloth and upholstery stores don’t fall under essential services, National Security Minister Stuart Young noted.
Young said Cabinet on Thursday took medical advice and decided all public transport in taxis, maxis and buses be limited to 50 per cent of capacity.
“There’s a level of exposure with daily activities which we’re trying to reduce. Don’t let maxi or taxi drivers force people to occupy more than 50 per cent of these vehicles,” he said.
He said there’ll be heightened vigilance on the overall effort.
“People will be sent back home if they don’t belong to essential services. The police and army will ‘police’ this. So everybody out there, please walk with IDs- you’ll have to justify to any law enforcement who asks where you’re going.”
Young said police will first use persuasive power. But he added the ultimate penalty can be fines up to $50,000 and six months’ jail.
“There’ll be a level of flexibility but you’ll have to prove to police you’re in the essential sector or are going to the pharmacy, hardware or to collect food.”