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Cabinet to consider allowing more patrons into fetes – and absorbing Covid testing costs

By Latrishka Thomas

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The government is considering allowing a larger number of revellers than previously agreed to attend fetes when they resume again.

This follows a recommendation from promoters who have argued that the 300-person cap per fete, announced last month, will not be profitable.

Large-scale entertainment events have been on ice for almost two years due to the pandemic, bar one test event in July.

Minister of Creative Industries Daryl Matthew proposed an alternative number which “is to be discussed with health professionals and other stakeholders before Cabinet agrees on a final number”, Cabinet notes said.

The notes also stated that the three promoters who attended Wednesday’s Cabinet meeting suggested that the entire cost of Covid testing for fete-goers be absorbed by the government because “employing their own health professionals at a cost of $100 each event was deemed too burdensome”.

This is despite the fact that the government had agreed to offer test kits at no cost.

The Prime Minister’s Chief of Staff Lionel Hurst told Observer that the Cabinet will consider the proposals and will relay the decision on Wednesday when the body convenes for the last time this year.

He said, however, that “we do not believe that a private enterprise intending to make a profit ought to rely on government”.

Furthermore, speaking at Friday’s post-Cabinet press briefing, Hurst stated that increased numbers will mean that testing will have to be done the day prior to an event.

“I believe where the promoters failed is in the question of carrying out the tests, because last we were told that they were prepared to have the tests on the night when they are having the event itself, but they say 300 people will not be sufficient to make their events profitable so they want more than 300 people and therefore the tests cannot be carried out on the same night because it will clog the area and cause precisely what we are trying to avoid to happen,” Hurst explained.

“So, the idea is to try to get the tests done on the day before the fetes so that when they appear at the door, they will show their vaccination ID card and they will show that they had been tested the day before,” he stated.

Meanwhile, the event organisers posited that bars and clubs have been exceeding the 300-person limit which the Cabinet was imposing on the fetes and are more likely to be super-spreader events.

“They argued that fete organisers were restricted to allowing only fully vaccinated persons plus patrons who tested negative within 24 hours prior to, or on the night of, the event, to enter the fete.

“Yet, these other unsupervised events had no proof of the vaccination status of their patrons, nor did they test the patrons before entering the bars and entertainment venues,” the Cabinet notes revealed.

The Cabinet discredited those claims but promised “to ensure that those bars and venues that disobey the law would be pursued more vigorously”.

“All the evidence shows that many of the bars are indeed acceding to and providing the kind of personnel necessary to ensure that only those who have taken the tests can enter,” Hurst said.

“What they say is that there are crowds sometimes that are outside of the venue that are connected to the entertainment that is going on inside of the venue, but that is difficult to prove,” he added.

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