By Orville Williams
Operators of bars, gyms and restaurants across the country were just some of the people left disappointed yesterday, following confirmation that the majority of the restrictions recently put in place are being extended yet again.
Just a few months ago, all of these businesses were allowed to operate, though under strict conditions which included the vaccination of all staff and patronage only by those who are fully vaccinated.
Those conditions, though restrictive to some extent, were welcomed by the business operators who have long been feeling the financial and other effects of lockdowns and temporary closures.
The recent spike in Covid-19 infections, however, forced the government to clamp down, ordering bars and gyms to close for the umpteenth time and restaurants to return to takeout-only yet again.
Several fingers were crossed that at the end of this current two-week assessment period there would be some reprieve, especially as there were hints the restriction on the restaurants would at least be loosened to allow in-house dining.
Instead, based on the level of risk that maintains, there’s just more of the same.
Pleasure craft and tour operators remain grounded for another two weeks at least, while beaches are only open from 5am to 5pm on weekdays, and 5am to 12pm on weekends.
The curfew hours also remain 8pm to 5am daily, and allowances for funerals, weddings and other social gatherings continue as they were.
Additionally, primary schools – that were previously allowed to open, so long as the teachers and staff were all vaccinated – have been ordered immediately closed, with another two-week assessment to determine the level of risk and the timeline for reopening.
Information Minister Melford Nicholas acknowledged the social and economic impact of these decisions during yesterday’s post-Cabinet media briefing, but maintained that they are hard decisions that must be made in the interest of the wider population.
While he assured that constant monitoring will be done to allow some of these restrictions to be safely lessened as appropriate, he pointed to the newly-determined herd immunity goal – up from 65,000 to 80,000 people vaccinated – as the only absolute way to get rid of the restrictions once and for all.
“When we get to that coveted number of 80,000 persons fully vaccinated, then there will be no need for us to have either the curfew or many of the [other] restrictions. So, the promise is there clearly, help us to get to the 80,000 and we will all enjoy the benefits of getting to that number – resuming a new level of normalcy with peace and ease.
“Clearly, when that happens and the economic activity comes back, we should see a change in the employment levels and that will affect everyone.” Nicholas later told the briefing that government wanted to see a sustained downward curve in new Covid cases for at least seven days before rules could be eased.