– President Ali says
By Vishani Ragobeer
THOUGH allowing indoor dining at bars and restaurants may be seen as incompatible with national efforts to mitigate the spread and impact of COVID-19, President Dr Irfaan Ali emphasised that balancing the health considerations with the economic impact prolonged closures might have on businesses is key to managing the pandemic well.
Since March 2020, a number of local businesses have reduced the services offered or have been forced to close their doors, and send home their employees, entirely. Now, it is almost one year since those restrictions to business activities first began.
“As policy makers and as the government, working with the medical practitioners and the specialists, we have to come up with the right balance,” President Ali related on Saturday, during an address to the nation at State House.
According to the COVID-19 Emergency Measures (no. 14), which will take effect from Monday and will last for the entire month of February, indoor dining is now permitted at bars and restaurants. Indoor dining and the opening of bars were prohibited over the past few months.
Dining will only be permitted, however, between the hours of 04:00 am to 9:30 pm. It was further noted that indoor dining at a restaurant and bar is restricted to 40 per cent capacity of the building, tables must be spaced six feet apart and no more than four persons are to be seated at one table, and each person must be three feet apart.
President Ali explained that while the government is cognisant of the health implications the reopening of these businesses could potentially result in, a safe and well-policed reopening would help to provide some redress to businesses and their employees.
Indoor dining at bars and restaurants are being monitored by the Guyana Tourism Authority (GTA); businesses are required to organise their premises in compliance with the adequate spacing and sanitisation guidelines.
Importantly, President Ali related that generally accepted industry standards indicate that businesses require at least 35 per cent occupancy to meet overhead costs. And, to prevent bankruptcy and to reduce the risk local businesses are exposed to, these measures have been introduced to provide some relief to them.
He highlighted that this decision was made after consulting with the National COVID-19 Task Force (NCTF), the GTA, the Tourism Hospitality Association of Guyana (THAG) and the Private Sector Commission (PSC).
Meanwhile, Head of the COVID-19 Task Force, Prime Minister, Brigadier (ret’d) Mark Phillips appealed to Guyanese to play their part in protecting themselves and their loved ones.
“While we are curbing the spread of COVID-19, the citizens are the ones who took a responsible role in adhering to the measures and ensuring that their families and communities adhere to those measures,” he said.