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By Machela Osagboro

Hotel workers laid off due to the coronavirus outbreak have begun receiving food packages to help them through the crisis.

Similarly, the government has partnered with local wholesalers to form the Covid-19 emergency food assistance programme, with the elderly, disabled and unemployed single parents among the first to benefit at the weekend.

Residents in need can currently collect packages from the National Office of Disaster Services (NODS) in American Road.

Overseeing operations is Minister of Social Transformation, Samantha Marshall.

“This is just a temporary programme to assist persons who may be home and do not have anyone to go to the supermarket or may not have the income that they can really buy what they need to ensure that they have items during the lockdown period,” she told Observer.

Marshall urged people with the means to support themselves not to use up scarce resources.

 “We are asking persons to please not abuse this programme; we have already had persons who employed who are calling. Our resources are limited, and we do not know how long this is going to be for.

“But this is a programme to really assist our poorest of poor, our indigent and those persons who have no income,” she added.

Lionel Hurst, from the Prime Minister’s office, said community leaders would help determine those in most need of help.

“I saw photographs of hundreds of these packages being prepared. They will be distributed by community leaders, those elected to serve as parliamentary representatives, who are the best to begin the distribution packages,” he said.

Hurst said the system would “provide for the needy and not the greedy”.

The government programme will also deliver prescription medicine to the most vulnerable during the 24-hour curfew period.

Hurst revealed that at least one eminent hotelier had promised that axed staff would receive food items from closed resorts’ storerooms.

“Where they are unable to pay salaries, or can only pay a portion of salaries, they will supplement it by providing needed services, canned goods and so on that they have in storage,” he explained.

Staff who have been laid off will be contacted by their management and told where to collect the goods.

One worker at the Cocobay resort said staff were given a form to fill out from the Antigua and Barbuda Workers Union which would qualify them to receive help and that staff would be summoned in alphabetical order. The worker said they were told this system was for a limited time and that employees would only receive one package each.

For information about the emergency food assistance programme call 463-5555, send a WhatsApp message to 734-5555 or email [email protected]

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