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A police patrol drives past customers waiting in line outside Wang and Sons Co Ltd on Charlotte Street, Port-of-Spain, on Saturday.

The Supermarket Association of Trinidad and Tobago (SATT) says it intends to ask the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service for assistance in managing crowds at supermarkets across the country.

In a release yesterday, SATT head Rajiv Diptee said the association will extend its pandemic relief measures until July 4, when the current lockdown measures are expected to end. Diptee said SATT will also be asking all staff to double mask, wear face shields and personal protective equipment where possible.

The association’s policy of one family member per household being allowed into supermarkets also remains in place and all promotions, advertising and specials have been suspended with immediate effect by all stores.

“In an effort to control crowds, we will be engaging with TTPS to ask for SRPs and traffic wardens to assist with crowd management. We are asking the authorities to emphasise that it is an offence to congregate as such and we are asking where possible, that persons should wait in their vehicles,” Diptee said.

He said the public should keep in mind that there will be a long wait to enter supermarkets. The association is asking shoppers not to make daily visits to supermarkets.

“Shopping carts have been limited to adjust to the capacity of persons that can be safely circulated through stores as per recommendations.”

He said the visibility of signage and pamphlet distribution by the Ministry of Health will also be increased to ensure compliance where necessary.

“Member stores have already increased the factors, including available registers, to allow for the throughput of traffic circulation as smoothly as possible for faster turnaround period,” Diptee said.

He said the sale of large appliances and furniture are to be suspended immediately. Mini appliances and household items are exempted from that list.

Diptee said the association is also asking the Government to support them by advising the public to listen, adhere and comply with all policies implemented.

However, in an immediate response to the association’s calls for assistance Police Commissioner Gary Griffith said the TTPS cannot provide free security services to supermarkets or any private business.

“The onus is on the supermarkets, the TTPS is not here as a free security agency for anywhere in the private sector – these companies, the few (businesses) that are open to provide essential services, it is their responsibility to provide relevant security and personnel to ensure the control of persons outside their facilities,” Griffith told Guardian Media in a telephone interview.

Griffith said he had already advised supermarkets of steps that can be taken to ensure that their customers social distance and adhere to the protocols. He said these include putting down markers outside supermarkets, providing tents so customers can wait outside buildings, ushers outside to ensure that customers know when they can enter and personnel inside to ensure customers are being compliant while shopping.

However, Griffith said the police will respond if crowds get out of control.

“But having said that, the police, our involvement at these supermarkets is to ensure that they do their job because they have a responsibility. If it is, the situation becomes beyond their capability, then obviously extra police will be brought there to assist them.” —SHARLENE RAMPERSAD