By Orville Williams
Starting August 1, only fully vaccinated residents may patronise places of entertainment, including bars, cinemas and some restaurants.
This, according to the government, is part of the effort to protect the local population from infection spread and to encourage more Covid-19 vaccinations among residents.
Cabinet Spokesperson, Information Minister Melford Nicholas, made the disclosure during yesterday’s post-Cabinet media briefing, and the tightening of the restrictions follows what he called “two major social events” in Potters and at Pensioners Beach last weekend.
In videos that circulated on social media, what appeared to be hundreds of people – maskless and closely gathered – began running for the exits when the police arrived on the scene.
Nicholas explained that occurrences like these – referred to as super-spreader events – threaten the economic rebound that has only recently started, and as a result, a decision was taken to restrict the places of entertainment to only the fully vaccinated.
He also warned that strict sanctions would come into play for businesses that flout this directive.
“[These entertainment business operators] are going to be required to ensure that their patrons are fully vaccinated in order to facilitate their entry.
“Where bar owners and other entertainment organisations permit non-vaccinated persons to enter upon inspection and it is found out, they will be faced with stiff financial penalties and the [possibility] as well, of being shut down for definitive periods,” Nicholas warned.
He added, “We’re not preventing them from running their businesses, but the controls that we must put in place must ensure at all times that we are minimising the clinical risk to the society, especially to those persons who are unvaccinated.”
Following queries from the media during the briefing, the Information Minister clarified the situation for restaurants, saying the new rules would only apply to those with entertainment components – like bars or karaoke areas included – meaning simple dining restaurants would still be allowed to accept unvaccinated residents.
Both the Health Ministry and the Ministry for Information & Technology will be tasked with creating and distributing new Covid vaccination cards to coincide with the rules.
“[The new vaccination cards] will be laminated, will have some unique identifiers [and] will allow [the fully vaccinated] to present them when required for entry into these entertainment establishments.”
Nicholas also confirmed that the rules would only apply to locals at this point, meaning unvaccinated tourists would still be allowed to patronise these places.
And, considering the financial impact these changes may have on some places of entertainment, he said the government would be prepared to assist these business operators in some way, if their situation is proven to be dire.