By Elesha George
Three restaurants were closed down in English Harbour over the weekend – taking the total to eight within the last two weeks – for violating Covid-19 health and safety protocols.
The most recent closures occurred days after Cabinet acknowledged a consistent breach of protocols by some business owners in the lively community.
Police officers had to be called to disperse crowds of patrons while a Central Board of Health (CBH) officer ordered them to close.
The CBH official who was on the scene told Observer that overcrowding, no wearing of masks and partying which led to a lack of social distancing, were evident when he visited the restaurants on the weekend.
“We’ve been getting consistent complaints with regards to non-compliance of Covid-19 protocols,” the health officer remarked.
He said the operators in the area do not seem to be concerned about prevention of the transmission of the virus, adding that “their main motivation is to make money”.
These businesses were demarcated before they were allowed to reopen after the national lockdown and operators, he said, ought to be aware of the seating capacity policy within their establishments and remain in accordance with health regulations.
“One of the popular restaurants that was closed, the amount of people that were there partying was unthinkable,” he told Observer.
Reports are that there was a live band on the beachfront with absolutely no way to control the crowd.
It was then, the health officer said, he made the decision to close one popular establishment, after the supervisor had been unable to stop the band and disperse the large crowd of people.
There are also reports of operators being aggressive towards law enforcement and blatantly refusing to comply.
Chief Health Inspector (CHI) Sharon Martin said the authorities are particularly concerned since the community houses a significant number of visitors to the island.
“Based on all the videos that have been making the rounds, we thought that we should pay careful attention, not only to out there [English Harbour] but all around the city you will see overcrowding,” she said.
Martin also wants a meeting with the Commissioner of Police and his deputy in order to come up with a plan to set up a cadre of police officers who normally work outside of the communities where non-compliance is taking place.
The CHI believes that the officers stationed in these communities may have personal ties with these businesses, hindering their ability to police impartially.
“We want a cadre of officers from different police stations or sub posts to be going around with officers. When they see overcrowding they will deal with them because there is no ‘friend and company’ behaviour. We don’t want officers stationed in a particular area where these clubs are,” she said.
Martin further explained that “we want mutual officers who have absolutely no connection with that establishment, so it’s easier for the officers to make a decision. If we [CBH] decide that that business place has to close because of overcrowding, the officer would not have a soft spot for that establishment because he knows everybody who works there and the owner and he just feels like not making that decision. We want officers who don’t know them at all and when we say close, they agree with us to close because of overcrowding”.
Observer was unable to ascertain whether arrests have been made or charges brought against these business owners or any of its patrons to date. Police spokesman Inspector Frankie Thomas did not respond to requests for clarification up to press time.
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