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Terrence Deyalsingh

Chester Sambrano

Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh has denied the Government’s decision to reopen restaurants in the first phase of the reopening plan was aimed at benefitting big businesses.

On Saturday, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley announced restaurants and roadside vendors would be able to operate until 8 pm with no dine-in services at the locations as part of the phase reopening plan following weeks of COVID-19 lockdown restrictions.

But some on social media criticised the move, calling it a measure meant to only benefit a few.

However, speaking at yesterday’s COVID-19 news conference Deyalsingh said that is simply not true.

“The doubles man can open; that’s small, the nuts man can open, the pieman can open, the small restaurant can open, so I am really disappointed that the narrative is being made out there that we are only opening big business.”

He also noted that big businesses employ thousands of people.

Over the weekend, Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar, in particular, called on the Prime Minister to open up small businesses and the manufacturing sector to stimulate economic growth.

Several business chambers also expressed disappointment with the conservative reopening, saying many businesses were still not allowed to operate.

But Deyalsingh responded yesterday by saying, “We cannot flip a switch and open everything at the same time.”

He said if this is done “we would regress” and maintained phase one would “start to stimulate some economic activity, get people back in jobs, it’s a very fine line that we are walking.”

As more people are being allowed outside, Deyalsingh once again expressed nervousness about the rollout. He said it would only be if people adhere to the public health guidelines that they would not “see the upsurge in cases which we expect from this weekend coming.”

The Minister noted that all cases so far can be traced to importation, “but with the relaxation that starts today (Monday), we cannot blame importation again, it will be local transmission, it will be community spread.”