ANSA McAL Group Chief Executive Officer Anthony Sabga says he agrees more testing needs to be done to see exactly where Trinidad and Tobago is with controlling COVID-19 before businesses can be reopened fully.
Speaking during CNC3’s COVID-19, Road to Recovery, Navigating the Crisis on Wednesday night, Sabga gave Government “full marks” for the way it had been dealing with the health crisis.
“I will remain guided by our experts and I am certainly no expert, I am someone who is monitoring. A lot of our businesses are already operating and continue to operate,” Sabga said.
His comment came even as other sectors were yesterday discussing the possibility of the business sector re-opening in phases after an Oxford University study ranked T&T second world in terms of countries which were in a good position to start the rolling back COVID-19 restrictions.
Sabga said even with this information, he would rely on the advice from Government and experts. He also welcomed the call for more testing within the two-week extension of the restrictions to May 10 and 15.
“I think in the judgement of the Prime Minister and the judgement of Government, we needed to give ourselves a little more breathing room to be absolutely certain and to assure ourselves that the required and requisite testing protocols are in place. I think the last thing that anyone wants to do is reopen far too quickly and then end up in a situation where you end up going back,” he said.
Sabga said protocols also needed to be put in place for the retail outlets and various businesses to open properly.
“So that when we do return, we return safely,” he said.
Despite a willingness to abide by the extension of the restrictions, Sabga also noted it was important to keep the “wheels of commerce turning”.
“The same way we phased down is that we start phasing back in. A level of maintenance of some of the hygiene protocols, social distancing protocols and as people’s psyche become more and more comfortable, I think the market forces themselves will normalise what needs to be normalised,” Sabga said.
Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley recently read out a letter of praise over the Government’s handling of the crisis from an unnamed conglomerate. While Sabga did not confirm whether that letter originated from his desk, he said the Government was doing a great job.
“The ANSA McAL group stands in full support of the Government of T&T and it is important that we as a nation commend and give full marks to the Government in their reaction to the pandemic,” he said.
He said the way the State adapted and localised the information coming from the World Health Organisation also deserved praise.
“It was that quick movement that has us where we are today,” he pointed out.
He said the group was also able to adapt quickly to the new normal brought on the virus.
“Well, we continue to adapt and I think it’s a work in progress. When this thing first kicked off our first reaction was obviously towards and remains the safety of our 6,000 strong employee base and in fact, just before the WHO and the governments in the region started triggering the work-from-home protocols, we started creating the possibility to work from home opportunities for our at-risk and elderly employees, people who are immuno-compromised, to ensure their safety. Since then we have put in place work-from-home protocols,” he said.
The companies, he said, have also been able to maintain productivity despite the restrictions and the limited staff in offices.
In fact, Sabga said it was the group’s gratitude toward the hard-working essential staff throughout the country that triggered the recent National Day of Applause initiative.
“We were so moved by the possibility of our people bringing this essential support to the country, it turned into a national movement,” he said.
“We continue to adapt.”