Eateries to remain open while diners to stay home, puzzling many

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Government’s latest COVID-19 directive has left business leaders and the medical fraternity trying to figure out the criteria used to restrict most activities, particularly on the Easter holidays, while allowing others to open.

President of the Barbados Private Sector Association (BPSA) Edward Clarke is hoping the directive, that imposes strict restrictions on weekends, will be the last of its kind, as he questioned the Government’s rationale.

Meanwhile, Head of the Barbados Association of Medical Practitioners (BAMP) Dr. Lynda Williams said she was curious to find out whether the decree that permits restaurant dine-in service during an island-wide stay-at-home order is based on some COVID-19 risk assessment that has not been publicly disclosed.

According to Attorney General Dale Marshall, Emergency Management (COVID-19) Orders & (Curfew) Directive (No. 7), which runs from Sunday, March 28th until Sunday, April 11th was drafted under the advice of the Chief Medical Officer and the Cabinet COVID-19 Sub-Committee.

In addition to an eight-hour overnight curfew and restrictions with regard to beaches and public parks, the AG announced an extension of stay-at-home orders on Sundays through to April 11th.

Marshall also explained the “partial shutdown” would be enforced throughout the Easter Weekend and warned that enforcement of the protocols that have already landed locals in prison would be taken “very seriously”.

Nevertheless, the directive, at paragraph 7 permits “restaurants catering to dine-in patrons” to open between 7 a.m. and 9 p.m. These establishments were ordered to close throughout the more stringent lockdown that started February 3 and lasted for approximately six weeks.

The BPSA president said while he is happy restaurants are allowed to open, there appears to be no clear logic except to “compensate” owners for revenue lost during earlier lockdowns.

Clarke further added that the association would be continuing to appeal for an ease in the existing restrictions on businesses.

“I can’t understand why restaurants can open and other businesses can’t. I don’t understand it, but there must be some good reason behind it…It doesn’t add up to me, but these are the protocols that the Government has come up with and we just need to follow them right now,” Clarke told Barbados TODAY.

“We are certainly willing to comply, but we will also be canvassing for other businesses to be opened on weekends so we can get back to our normal business operations in Barbados.

“We desperately need to do so at the earliest opportunity… We really need these people to get back to money-earning operations and get people back employed and on the job. I wasn’t consulted and I don’t have the thought process behind it, but… we hope that it will be the last of such orders going forward,” the business leader added.

Others took to social media arguing that many of the protocols regarding business and movement are counterproductive.

One commentator said: “These directives, with or without intent have become elitist. Restaurants [are allowed to open], but not supermarkets. I [can’t exercise], but [I] can drive. I can’t sell the bread I bake, but I can sit in a restaurant and they can sell me their bread.”

In a brief Barbados TODAY interview, Dr. Williams added that while she also found the directive “quite confusing”, any stay-at-home order would have an impact on the country’s virus situation.

“I cannot tell you what the risk  assessment is based on,” the BAMP president said.

Dr. Williams also acknowledged that the Government could also be systematically tracking the impact of certain directives on the restriction of movement through certain internet applications.

“Locking down the country, however you choose to do it, is going to have an effect. When you lock down the country and make some exceptions, that will also have an impact. If you have a lot of exceptions, then that also has an impact,” Williams explained.

“If you are getting the measured effect that you are looking for, then it’s just a matter of deciding what you will allow. That is why I haven’t kept a lot of noise about it, because my greater concern is about whether you are measuring the effect of the lockdown, but at the same time, the only way we can measure the impact of the lockdown is if we test,” the BAMP president added.

She also contends that in instances of widespread transmission, with the exception of delivery, restaurants ought to be closed.

But other than that, she added that groups allowed to dine-in should be members of the same ‘family bubble’.

“If you are from the same bubble and you are going out with your family to lunch, then that table should be six feet away from another table, and the restaurants that should be open are the ones that are in open settings or outdoor settings,” the BAMP president suggested.

Efforts to reach chairman of the Cabinet’s COVID-19 Sub Committee Dr. Jerome Walcott for a further explanation on the rationale for the protocols, were unsuccessful.
(kareemsmith@barbadostoday.bb)

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