“For those of you who feel lucky… don’t crowd the vendors but try your luck!”
Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley announced today that phase three of the reopening of the local economy will begin on Monday 1 June, six days earlier than initially expected, with a number of add-ons.
The National Lotteries Control Board (NLCB) will be back in full effect while the entire public sector also returns to work along with all retail management, including small businesses, car shops, tradesmen, book stores, etc.
‘Non essential’ public sector workers will be initially asked to work on a rotational basis, with some employees out on Monday, Wednesday and Friday and then the following Tuesday and Thursday while others work on the alternate days.
“We will [also continue to] encourage the use of virtual meetings at the management level,” said Rowley. “We will encourage the public service to facilitate virtual work and flexi-time: those options are available and we will leave entirely up to the managers of the various officers.”
Malls will be re-opened on Monday as well, with no indoor dining permitted, while Caribbean Airlines will resume full operations between Trinidad and Tobago. Hotels can allow outdoor dining—if they have the facilities to do so—for guests only.
“Tobago is your singular access to recreation [and it] is wide open for business and they will love to have you,” said Rowley.
The prime minister stressed that Covid-19 guidelines around physical distancing, hygiene and masks remain. Businesses observed violating guidelines on congregations can be closed by the police.
Public transport including maxi taxis and taxis are still mandated to operate at 50 percent capacity.
Rowley said barbershops, hairdressers, spas, domestic workers, gardeners, etc can be back in business—with the relevant health adjustments—from phase four on 8 June, if the infection rate remains low or non-existent.
Chief medical officer Dr Roshan Parasram explained that the ‘cautious’ approach to the reopening of the personal care industry was due to the nature of the business, which involved close contact, physical touching and workers who interact with a large number of persons in a short period of time.
Next up is expected to be churches, casinos, cinemas and bars, which may be permitted to resume service from the ‘third week of June’. The prime minister said the latter three groupings were asked to submit proposals for their workplace safety, which will be considered by the government.
“We want to bring them back into operation but we want to have some idea about what protocols are in place,” said Rowley.
Sport, beaches and rivers are also expected to be included in phase five.
Rowley begged for patience from persons who are anxious to return to work but are still not permitted to do.
“If your category has not been called today, I know you are disappointed [but] remember why we are doing this,” said the prime minister. “To save lives and to be alive to have an economy. Let us not put the economy first… Dead men don’t go to work.”
Rowley said the government intends to consider ‘the commercial repatriation of more of our people on the outside’, which means allowing Caribbean Airlines to bring home citizens aboard at present. However, he stressed that the greatest risk of infection to the public now lies with persons outside our borders.
“While we empathise and are moved by the stories on the news,” said Rowley, “that is not the basis on which we will make our decisions at our borders…”
The Ministry of National Security is likely to allow CAL to begin by bringing home citizens from Caricom countries with low infection rates that are otherwise closed to the international public.
At present, the government is preparing exemptions that will allow three Trinidad and Tobago cricketers to join the West Indies team for a tour of England. Minister of Health Terrence Deyalsingh said this tour will be used as a potential template in terms of health guidelines for the sport.
There is no decision yet about whether Trinidad will host the 2020 Caribbean Premier League (CPL) CPL T20 competition. However, Rowley and Young both said they are ‘cautiously optimistic’ that they will overcome the ‘logistical arrangements’ necessary for it to happen—‘under the confines of the CMO’s guidance’.
Health professionals, on Rowley’s urging, agreed to allow congregations of 10 persons for funerals only, so as to better provide ‘emotional relief’ for the bereaved.