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By Latrishka Thomas

While addressing the issue of state of emergency protocols being violated at bars, the Minister of Health disclosed that, recently, an employee at a local bar violated quarantine and went to work.

“Look what happened at a particular bar; there was a young lady who was Covid positive and was supposed to be in isolation and she breached her isolation which is breaking the law and went to a particular bar to work, and that bar is [now] closed,” Molwyn Joseph said during an Observer AM interview on Tuesday.

He further stated that based on what had been reported to him, “there were over 300 patrons at that bar”.

Despite this, the Health Minister said that while he is not suggesting that bars should be closed entirely, residents on the other hand should take note that “if we do not change our behaviour in this country … we are going to be in a difficult situation ahead and it cannot be blamed on the authorities”.

Joseph also conceded that there needs to be increased messaging on Covid-19 protocols amid a spike in cases over the weekend, adding that those discussions have been held at the Cabinet level.

“It has been discussed extensively in the Cabinet and I can assure you that this is going to be something that will be addressed urgently. You are quite right; we need to get the message out there and we need to constantly remind the people and encourage them to stick to the protocols.

“I have had videos sent to me and I have seen parties and people enjoying themselves, they are drinking, they are talking in each other’s face, dancing, and you know that is the environment and it’s very, very difficult,” he shared.

The opposition United Progressive Party has underscored the need for continued safety promotions as residents and officials share concerns about the lack of adherence to protocols in recent weeks.

The Minister of Health also does not believe that there has been mixed messaging in the country’s Covid-19 response, with some complaining about unofficial contact sporting activities such as football being allowed, while interactions in bars are highly criticised.

“I don’t think it’s a mixed message but the reality is that it’s extremely difficult to police the entire country with all these activities … it is impossible to surveil every one and every activity,” he said

And in responding to criticism levelled at the government for apparently allowing an after-curfew party to be held for an R&B star at a local resort, Joseph said the policing of such matters rests with law enforcement.

 “What is not fair is that they would expect me to be responsible. That’s law enforcement’s responsibility…. It’s the law enforcement agency that is supposed to enforce the law, not the Ministry of Health,” he exclaimed.

Joseph is also calling on workers to “be real” as government grapples with meeting payroll. His comments come after employees at Mount St John’s Medical Centre complained about late payment.

“Sometimes, I wonder if people understand that we are in an epidemic that has almost destroyed the world economy?” Joseph remarked. “Our main source of revenue is tourism. The pandemic has virtually killed tourism. It is amazing that this government, up to today, is able to pay all workers their salaries. Come on, let us be real.

“In the United States, there are millions of people who are unemployed. We have Caribbean countries now that start out with great confidence that they can go through this storm and just dole out money, they are saying they can’t do it anymore. We are trying to keep our economy open,” Joseph said.

Several employees at the hospital have recently contacted Observer complaining of being unable to meet their financial responsibilities and provide for their children due to the consistent late payment of salaries.

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