RADHICA DE SILVA
Booksellers are calling on the government to list them as an essential service, saying the closure of bookstores will have a devastating impact on children's education.
Hours after Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley outlined the latest Public Health Regulations shutting down all retail outlets, Teddy Mohammed, the owner of Mohammed’s Bookstore and Associates said the government should reconsider its decision and allow bookstores to stay open.
"I think at this stage in schools it is important that we stay open. The SEA and CXC exams are close. SEA on the 10th June and parents need access to all these practice books and textbooks that children need," he said.
He noted that parents were already panicking and had called to say they were coming for practice books.
He noted that with online school going on, parents needed materials including lab books and craft items.
"Parents are facing a grave predicament. The last time that bookstores were shut down, people suffered. We are making a call to the government to allow bookstores to be open because we are an essential service," Mohammed said.
He noted that the stores had over 50 workers and all of them will be sent home with full pay.
"Our staff is our engine room and without them, we cannot operate," he added.
Meanwhile, Nasser Khan, the owner of Next Generation Bookstore in Rio Claro also said the closure of bookstores will negatively impact parent's peace of mind.
"Our core business is school and taking care of parents peace of mind, especially during these online sessions. We are an essential service in that we supply all their needs, inks and printers needed for online schooling," Khan said.
He explained that supermarkets and pharmacies were now megastores while bookstores, particularly those in the countryside were essential to students and parents.
"Six employees from my bookstore will have to go home now without pay. How am I going to pay them? We need to be open. We have to be open else online schools will be affected terribly. When students have crafts to make, where will they go? We cannot afford a lockdown like this again," he said.
All non-essential retail outlets were ordered shut by the Prime Minister until May 23. A list of the essential outlets will be issued on Wednesday.