More pain for owners, bars must remain shut
By Shelton Daniel
Bars and entertainment clubs “will remain closed until further review by the Ministry of Health and the Cabinet.”
This was the opening line of a blunt declaration in this week’s post-Cabinet briefing, which noted that “bars provide the ideal conditions for the spread of the [COVID-19] virus.”
This means a further extension of pain for the owners and employees of such establishments whose livelihoods depend on their usually well-patronised operations.
Bars and nightclubs have been ordered to shut down completely and indefinitely following a dramatic rise in COVID-19 cases at the start of 2021 following the Christmas-New Year holiday season.
Many operators have complained bitterly that the shutdown is harsh and leaves them with no other means of earning to support themselves and dependents.
The authorities have however repeatedly pointed out that the losses in lives, ruined health and broader economic damage would be far worse if the measures are not applied and COVID-19 is allowed to spread further in the twin-island state of one hundred thousand.
Asked during Thursday morning’s post-Cabinet media briefing about the plight of bar owners and operators, Information Minister Melford Nicholas said, “The government is still sympathetic to that view. We looked at it and it is a painful decision for us to make. We know that there are many persons who are gainfully employed in that particular economic activity. But the fallout from that endeavour could spell additional roll-on costs for the health officials, for the public health facility and, of course sickness and death for a number of other persons.”
Nicholas said these were the considerations weighed by Cabinet during its weekly meeting on Wednesday. He suggested that an increased uptake in vaccinations among the population might help to create a safer environment in which the reopening of bars and nightclubs might be considered.
“What will inform the government’s decision to relax [bar and club operations] some more? There is going to be some benefit from more persons becoming vaccinated. It’s an area no one likes to deal with. We’re not forcing anyone. We are appealing to the good conscience and the good sense for everyone. If perchance we get up to that particular level, then the likelihood that more of these things could be relaxed and we go back to a situation of normalcy. Even larger events may well be accommodated… like Independence. Maybe if we had the level of herd immunity, that will be part of what we could look at,” the Minister stated.
Nicholas added that he was “not in position to say whether in another week or two any circumstances would visit us to allow us to be able to relax the condition for the bars, but we are certainly looking at it …”
He repeated that bar owners could take the initiative and make their own recommendations to the Ministry of Health for self-devised control measures they believe could be applied to permit reopening without risking public health.