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Owners of Shamila’s Doubles, Premawtee and Sahadeo Deonanan, came out at 6 am on Monday morning to sell their doubles in Tobago. Food businesses were allowed to reopen this week.

“Lives before livelihoods.”

That is Tobago Business Chamber’s take on Government’s phased reopening plan after most of the country was shut down to reduce the spread of COVID-19 weeks ago.

Speaking with Tobago Today on the issue, the chamber’s chairman Martin George said the organisation fully supports Government’s plan as it’s “a measured and balanced attempt at reopening.”

“The Tobago Business Chamber wishes to lend its support to the Government’s efforts to stage a phased reopening of the country…We certainly support that as a business chamber,” George said.

He said the organisation recognised reopening the country could not have taken place all at once.

“In very much the same way that we had a phased closing down, we have to have a phased reopening. We understand that it is still some pain for some small businesses and independent persons such as barbers…”

Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley announced the food businesses would be allowed to reopening but only for take away services in the first phase of the reopening which started this week. Rowley said the Government would monitor how this goes and may make adjustments to what they do in the other phases of reopening.

Not all business stakeholders have agreed with the decision, however, with some calling for more areas to be reopened pointing out that prolonged closure could lead to the closure of some businesses.

While George acknowledged some businesses will face similar issues, he said it is important to look at the situation holistically.

“We recognised some other smaller businesses will be under some stress and strain but at the end of the day, sometimes we have to look at the bigger picture in terms of the lives and livelihoods of people as opposed to just looking at the livelihoods.”

He added: “When one looks at the plan rolled out by the Government as a whole, it does appear to be a fair attempt at striking a balance and the Government did indicate that they are willing to make adjustments as things progress.”

The first phase of the Government’s plan began on May 10 and runs until May 23.

The measure involving restaurants and food places allows them to operate until 8 pm daily for take-away and curbside pickup service but they must observe strict safety protocols.

Tobago Today also contacted the Tobago chapter of the Trinidad and Tobago Chamber of Industry and Commerce for their take on the Government’s reopening plan. However, president Dianne Hadad said the group was due to meet last night to discuss the matter. She said they will make a statement on the matter today.