Clarence Rambharat

If people don’t behave themselves in Phase One of Government’s plan to relax COVID-19 restrictions, Phase Two of the “rollback” may never arrive.

So said acting Leader of Government Business in the Senate Clarence Rambharat yesterday. He made the comment while replying to UNC senator Saddam Hosein’s queries on whether Government intended to reconsider including small and medium businesses in Phase One of the reopening of the economy.

This followed pleas by small and medium-sized business owners to be permitted to resume operations.

Rambharat said that while most businesses were closed because of COVID measures, not all were. He said from the start of the situation, agriculture businesses, including those supplying the sector and agri-suppliers to supermarkets, plus meat shops and hardware stores, were all open.

Rambharat said small and medium businesses comprise a large part of the food sector that’s now reopened in Phase One of the rollback of COVID restriction measures.

“The prime minister last Saturday listed Phase 2 (of the plan) and he made it clear this is contingent on COVID numbers remaining down,” Rambharat said.

On whether Government consulted business chambers before deciding on its phased plan, Rambharat said the PM had made it clear Government would act based on the science and advice from the Chief Medical Officer and regional and international partners.

He said he had the greatest respect for chamber colleagues, but even when he was head of a business group he “…never ventured to advise any Government or Labour Minister on matters of science or medicine.”

Rambharat reiterated Government will take advice from the CMO and the advice Phase One is based on, is on medical advice available, with the caution that if people don’t behave themselves in this phase the second may never arrive.

On another Opposition query, Education Minister Anthony Garcia said 171 out of 176 former University of T&T (UTT) workers have received their severance payments to date.

Garcia said the Board of Inland Revenue is processing payment for five remaining people—three of whom were paid 75 per cent of benefits.

Two people who didn’t get the initial tranche due to an “administrative oversight,” Garcia added, will get it in the “near future.”

He said the agency handling severance packages for UTT, has those persons’ files.