Police officers monitor the long lines of people hoping to receive a food hamper at the South Park Plaza, on Friday. (Image: RISHI RAGOONATH)
RADHICA DE SILVA
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Police were forced to shut down a hamper distribution drive organised by tenants of South Park Mall, after hundreds of people turned up, creating a public health crisis.

The officers took more than two hours to disperse the crowds, which stretched for more than half a mile along the Tarouba Link Road, San Fernando Bypass and around the Roundabout to the Mall’s entrance.

Marketing consultant, Rory Moses, said they had tried putting social distancing restrictions in place, but the crowds quickly got out of hand.

“We knew a lot of families and a lot of homes had lost their jobs due to this pandemic, so we came together with the tenants and the management of South Park Plaza to distribute hampers to families throughout Southern Trinidad,” Moses said.

He added: “We were very overwhelmed, and we are now looking to change our strategies. We will be working hand-in-hand with the police to come up with a better solution where people can get registration chits beforehand and come to South Park later in the week to collect their food hampers.”

Cameraman Ivan Toolsie, who obtained footage of the chaos, saw members of the same families lining up for multiple hampers.

Social distancing was non-existent and because of this, many people left the long lines in fear of becoming infected with COVID.

Some Venezuelan migrants came with their babies to collect food.

Eventually, the police shut down the distribution and told the crowds to return home.

The food drive had been advertised on Facebook, and some 1,200 hampers had been prepared for distribution.