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Police warn bar and nightclub owners to comply with Covid rules over festive season – or face fines

By Orville Williams

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Operators of bars and nightclubs across the country have been warned by the police that no actions contrary to the Covid-19 regulations will be tolerated over the festive season.

“We’re going to be working closely [with the Central Board of Health (CBH)] to make sure that things work the way they’re supposed to,” Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP) Everton Jeffers told Observer this week.

This warning is certainly timely, considering these establishments will likely see an increase in patronage during this time, particularly as the government announced the hosting of fetes will no longer be permitted.

That previous allowance would have seen a maximum of one approved fete per day, for fully vaccinated persons only, with Covid testing carried out prior to each event.

Both bars and nightclubs were given the green light to resume operations on November 15, after months of forced closures due to the sustained threat of Covid-19 spread.

Patrons have apparently been eagerly awaiting their reopening, as many bars in and around the city of St John’s, for example, have been seeing a lot of movement over the past few weeks.

As part of their reopening, the establishments were mandated to permit entry to only fully vaccinated patrons and abide by the public health measures – mask wearing, handwashing, temperature checks and social distancing.

In strengthening the social distancing rule, the establishments were told that they would only be permitted to allow a certain number of people inside, based on the size of the building.

Jeffers explained that, notwithstanding the understandable need for these businesses to generate income, the police will not be accepting any behaviour that breaches those restrictions.

“We are not in the business of trying to put these businesses out of business; what we’re trying to do is save lives and stop the spread of Covid-19,” he said.

“So, what we would advise these businesses to do is to make sure that they have persons at their doors, making sure that the number of people that the license or the authorisation that they got [allows], that is the number of people that they have inside the establishment.”

The senior police officer also warned that fines will come into play for the businesses that are in breach, which should prove an adequate deterrent considering the financial losses many have suffered due to the pandemic.

“Periodical checks will be done and if these businesses are found with more than the number that they’re supposed to have, the business owner is going to be in trouble,” he continued.

“The Chief Health Inspector spoke [previously] of the amount that a person will be fined if they break the Covid-19 regulations, so it is very important for them to understand that breaking [the rules] is not only going to create problems for the persons who are there in excess, it’s going to also affect their pockets, because they will be given the greater fine, since it’s their responsibility to make sure that the business [is compliant].”

Health Minister, Sir Molwyn Joseph, told state media on Monday that fetes will be barred from taking place “for the time being”, due to the new threat of the Omicron Covid-19 variant.

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