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By Orville Williams

Shoppers across the country are being urged to get their business done over the next few weeks, as shopping will be shut down early in St John’s on Christmas Eve.

Cabinet spokesperson, Information Minister Melford Nicholas, made the declaration during the post-Cabinet media briefing yesterday.

“Given the historical congregation of persons in St John’s around Christmas time and particularly on Christmas Eve – where not only do people engage in last-minute shopping, but are involved in a lot of browsing, socialising and frolicking – the Cabinet has taken the precautionary step of limiting commercial activity in St John’s to 7pm on Christmas Eve.

“We are seeking the tolerance of the public to understand that our overriding concern – while we do accept and embrace the need for increased commercial activity – is the safety of the population,” Nicholas said.

That decision will undoubtedly impact some business operators, whose holiday sales’ strategy often includes consideration for the massive Christmas Eve turnout that has become the norm.

While he acknowledged the need for increased transactions – given the sustained economic fallout from the pandemic – Nicholas encouraged both shoppers and business owners to maximise business over the next few weeks, while adhering to the Covid-19 protocols.

“It’s a compromise that has to be done, but we are concerned that the level of activity and the level of crowding would present a certain health risk that we would want to ensure we have kept to a minimum.

“We are asking for the support of the business community and, of course, the patronising community as well. If at all we can spread our Christmas shopping over the preceding days – and have extended days – to ensure that we do not necessarily limit commercial activity. [However], be mindful that any unusual clustering – the likes that we are accustomed to at Christmas time – will present a risk for the public.”

The Cabinet also recently adjusted the restrictions for beaches on the holidays, extending access from 5am to 1pm across VC Bird Day, Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year’s Day. Despite these extensions, however, other regulations have been maintained for the beaches, including: no food/drink consumption, no playing of music and no crowding.

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