by Sampson Nanton

  • No Christmas parties at Govt offices, State corporations
  • Private sector, families asked to do same
  • $10 million to assist those affected by bar restrictions
  • $20 million to assist affected self-employed
  • Food services to resume in casinos
  • Hunting to resume

Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley has said there is to be no Christmas parties in the public service in 2020 and has called on the private sector to follow suit.

At a news conference in Tobago Saturday, Dr Rowley said he will tell the head of the public service on Monday to instruct all government ministries to carry out this directive and will inform the Minister of Finance, as Corporation Sole, to instruct State enterprises to do the same.

He said the aim to have students return to school will be defeated if “we free up” during the Christmas period.

“If we’re not careful, the Christmas cultural responses could put us in a position where the January numbers could say to us ‘no school’ because we have behaved badly and the infectious rate would be so high that we can’t even think of bringing children back out to school,” he said.

“Do not encourage congregation and mixing over the Christmas season,” he said.

He urged the population to note that the Christmas season is not a time to relax measures that have been implemented to keep the country safe.

Dr Rowley said that he has learnt that almost every villa in Tobago is booked for Christmas, adding that while that is good for Tobago from an economic standpoint, it means that there will be a rise in the potential for cases to spread.

He said it will just take a few cases of misconduct for the viral to get out of hand in Tobago.

“It all has to do with the behaviour of people coming to Tobago or are in Tobago,” he said.

Minister of Health Dr Terrance Deyalsingh also called for a “holy but quiet Christmas” without parties and family gatherings.

He said the Ministry of Health has asked the private sector not to have office Christmas parties that can lead to a spread of the virus.

He has asked that people reject invitations to parties and other events that require gatherings.

“Let’s spend a very quiet Christmas this year so that in 2021 all of us will be around and we will celebrate 2021 with all the bells and whistles and parang and so on,” he said.

Meanwhile, Dr Rowley said his Cabinet will find $10 million to support people affected by the downturn in business because of the restrictions against gatherings at bars.

He said he has also asked the Minister of Finance to find $20 million for Social Services to assist thousands who are self-employed and are now facing destitution because of the restrictions.

He pointed out, for example, people who set up food stalls outside sporting events but who are no longer earning revenue because of the measures in place.

Among other changes, food services will be allowed in casinos and hunters will be allowed to hunt again.

On Monday, the prime minister said, the Minister of Agriculture will take the steps to have hunters registered so that at the end of next weekend, hunters will be allowed to hunt.

There has been no changes in other measures, including those placed on gatherings at bars.