Limited indoor dining at restaurants now allowed
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Dining inside of a local restaurant
Dining inside of a local restaurant

— GTA to monitor restaurants to ensure COVID-19 guidelines followed

RESTAURANTS can now offer limited indoor dining once all measures instituted to mitigate the spread of the virus, COVID-19, are followed, according to amended COVID-19 Emergency Measures made on January 13.

The current gazetted COVID–19 Emergency Measures (No. 13) were amended to allow local restaurants to offer indoor dining, but only at 40 per cent capacity of the building. This means that if a restaurant has 10 tables, only four of those tables are permitted for use.

Additionally, the amendment specifies that the tables must be spaced six feet apart from each other and there should be no more than four persons seated at one table. These persons, sharing a table, must also be seated at least three feet apart.

The amended measures also state: “Staff at restaurants shall wear a face mask fitted to cover the nose, mouth and chin at all times and shall sanitise dining tables and chairs after use by each customer.”

This January 13 amendment modifies the existing measures which took effect from January 1, 2021 and will expire on January 31, 2021.

Previous gazetted COVID-19 Emergency Measures prohibited indoor dining and stated that restaurants are only allowed to offer outdoor dining, drive-thru and takeaway services, curb-side pickup and delivery. Outdoor dining is only permitted from 04:00hrs to 21:30hrs; all tables must be spaced six feet apart from each other, and no more than four persons should be seated at one table.

This past weekend, the National COVID-19 Task Force (NCTF) ‘shut down’ a number of local restaurants for breaching the COVID-19 guidelines by offering indoor dining. Bars, rumshops and such entertainment spots that were open were also shut down since the measures have stated that these establishments should not be opened.

WARNING LETTERS

Over the past few months, the NCTF had been issuing warning letters to local establishments for acting in contravention of the guidelines. Following this weekend’s move to shut down businesses, the Guyana Chronicle understands that several local businesses lobbied for less restrictions during a meeting with local authorities on Tuesday.

Now, with the amended guidelines, restaurants can offer both indoor and outdoor dining during the 04:00hrs to 21:30hrs period, once the appropriate social-distancing measures are followed. Buffet dining remains prohibited.

But, there has been no relaxation of the measures which prohibit bars, rumshops and other such establishments from operating. The Minister of Health, Dr. Frank Anthony, previously explained that the social activities encouraged in these places (including the consumption of alcohol and the congregating in groups) are likely to contribute to the further spread of the novel coronavirus.

A reliable source at the NCTF told the Guyana Chronicle that the Task Force is wary that restaurants, which also offer bar services, may offer those services once again.

“Restaurants should not take advantage of the (limited) indoor dining allowed,” the source said, explaining that the Task Force will, once again, ask these establishments to cease their operations.

Though the Task Force did not seize any business licenses from the establishments during this weekend’s business closures, the source also emphasised, “We are stepping up on the enforcement measures.”

GTA TO MONITOR

In light of the reduced restrictions on indoor dining, the Guyana Tourism Authority (GTA) will be responsible for monitoring all restaurants to ensure implementation of the measures necessary to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus.

This newspaper understands that restaurants will have to ensure that their premises are modified to allow for ‘social-distanced’ indoor dining and then apply to the GTA for certification. Following an inspection of the premises from the local tourism authority, only then will the restaurants receive permission to offer indoor dining.

The GTA will also be responsible for monitoring these establishments to ensure that they do not breach any of the COVID-19 measures.

The Guyana Chronicle also understands that punitive measures for restaurants that operate in contravention are being explored, but no decision has been made as yet.

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