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T&T bans Christmas parties in the public sector


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T&T bans Christmas parties in the public sector
Dr Keith Rowley (FILE)

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SCARBOROUGH, Tobago – The Trinidad and Tobago government on Saturday announced a total ban on Christmas parties within the public sector and urged the private sector to do the same.

It also announced a TT$30 million (One TT dollar=US$0.16 cents) initiative aimed at assisting persons who lost their jobs, or have fallen on hard times as a result of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley and Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh told a news conference here that instructions would be given to the appropriate public sector officials so to ensure that government funding for Christmas parties over the coming weeks would not be entertained.

“There is to be no state sponsored or Christmas party in the public sector,” Rowley said, acknowledging that the new order would have an effect on the economies of “those who supply the Christmas party but this is to curb the spread of the virus”.

“It ought to be not only a holy Christmas but also a quiet one,” Deyalsingh said, urging people to celebrate within your family unit and not invite persons to partake in the celebrations.

Rowley said he was aware that many villas in Tobago were fully booked for the Christmas Season and while government would not prevent people residing in Trinidad travelling to the sister isle for the Season, he was reiterating the need to follow all protocols and measures put in place to prevent the spread of the virus that killed 113 and infected more than 5 000 people in Trinidad and Tobago.

Rowley, who along with Deyalsingh were participating in the Ministry of Health news conference here, said that his target remained for schools to be opened in January and that the actions of people during the Christmas period would determine whether this was achieved.

“Have a responsible Christmas. It is a big ask,” Rowley said, adding that the “issue we are fighting is the issue of contact, where there is congregation, stay isolated even from other members of your family”.

Rowley warned that if the country does not “hold the line” it will end up like many other countries that are now experiencing a new wave of the virus.

Rowley also announced that there would be no relaxation of the measures regarding the operations of bar and restaurants in the country, indicating that the policy does not prevent them from selling as much alcohol as possible.

“What it is not opened for is to allow people to come and congregate over alcohol,” Rowley said.

He told reporters that he has asked the Minister of Finance, Colm Imbert, to secure TT$10 million “to treat with employees who work in bars and restaurants and who would have lost their jobs”.

He said owners of these facilities will also be able to benefit from the government small business support facility.

In addition, the government will also be providing TT$20 million to the Social Services Development to help persons who are finding it extremely difficult to survive the impact of the virus.

But he warned that unlike previous initiatives where persons were dishonest in acquiring assistance, “where there are clear instances of dishonesty these people should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law”.

Rowley also announced that while the borders would remain closed allowing only for official exemptions, the government is now considering a proposal from the state-owned carrier, Caribbean Airlines (CAL) for the use of an early testing programme to allow for an increased level of transportation. (CMC)

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