Businesses can still require patrons to wear masks, Nicholas says

Mask-wearing became optional as of Wednesday – although private businesses reserve the right to mandate customers wear them (Photo courtesy Getty Images)
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By Carlena Knight

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Despite the recent move to make mask-wearing optional to the public, private businesses still have the right to require their patrons to wear masks when entering their establishments.

Cabinet spokesman Melford Nicholas confirmed such at Thursday’s post-Cabinet press briefing.

“As far as private businesses who still may feel that they wish to exercise the option of providing an additional environment of care and safety and they make that determination, again, based on how they will come to conditions in setting the environment in their own workplace, it is totally acceptable that they can do that without the cover of a public mandate based in law, but in terms of what they will determine to be a safe environment for their employees and their patrons, yes, they are in a position so to do,” the Information Minister said.

Already some businesses have indicated that customers won’t be required to wear masks, while others have said it remains a requirement.

Caribbean Cinemas was among the first establishments to indicate that the use of masks would now be optional for all patrons. This is also the case for several restaurants across the country.

Masks are still required at health care facilities, such as the Sir Lester Bird Medical Centre.

In a recent release, the public hospital said that staff, physicians, learners and volunteers will continue to follow personal protective equipment rules, including wearing a mask.

Minister Nicholas indicated that this will continue to be a requirement going forward for all medical institutions, both public and private, and for adult care facilities.

“This requirement for this change was impressed upon us by the Medical Association and they are of the view that those protocols should not be relaxed in those particular institutions and the Ministry of Health and Cabinet [gave] consideration to it [on Wednesday] and agreed to the resumption of the mandates for those types of businesses in particular.

“We are speaking about medical offices for doctors and dentists, whether or not they are operating in the private sphere, for persons who are providing adult care facilities given the vulnerability of our senior citizens who are inmates of those particular institutions, and of course our public hospitals and clinics.

“So, those mandates will be resumed as and when the public health advisory is published and gazetted,” Nicholas added.  

The mask-wearing mandate came into effect in March 2020 shortly after the country recorded its first case of Covid-19. Since then, several persons have been charged and fined for neglecting to wear the face covering.

The mandate was however lifted on Wednesday when the government made mask-wearing optional.

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