Son of vendor who died from covid19: Time for curfew


Simeon Bennie, 39, the son of dead market vendor Balnarine ‘Balo’ Bennie, is calling for the implementation of a curfew to further restrict the spread of the coronavirus. The elder Bennie, 63, died from the virus on Monday. PHOTO COURTESY BENNIE FAMILY –

As a Tunapuna family mourns the death of their father from covid19 and prays for the speedy recovery of his wife, who also has the virus, their son is calling for swift action in reducing the spread: he wants a curfew.

Speaking with Newsday on Thursday, Simeon Bennie, the son of veteran market vendor and masman Balnarine “Balo” Bennie, said he did not feel the public, particularly young people, were taking the public health regulations seriously and called for stricter measures to reduce the spread.

Simone Bennie said, “In my opinion I know young people not staying home.

“People are doing what they want right now and that is our biggest problem. I think a curfew is needed and if you caught outside without proper authorisation you should be charged, that is my opinion.”

Balnarine Bennie, 63, died in hospital on Monday. He was one of five people who died from the virus that day.

The younger Bennie, 39, said his father’s death came as a shock.

His mother, Gita Bennie, also tested positive for the virus and was being treated at the Couva Hospital up to Thursday, where her condition was said to be gradually improving, as she began breathing without a ventilator.

Asked if he felt the Tunapuna market, where his father worked, was where he contracted the virus, Bennie said he could not say for certain, as the mnagement obeyed and enforced the health measures.

“I am also the one who used to drop off and pick up my father by the market on a weekend, so I see for myself the restrictions they have in place there.

“The market is sanitised twice a week, so that’s one of the good things. They do exercise caution, and the security actually do their jobs to get visitors to wear their masks and wash their hands. They enforce these rules as much as possible.”

Bennie said he tested negative for the virus, but continues to be careful and urged other people only to leave their homes if absolutely necessary.

Another relative, who asked not to be named, said he felt the market was the ideal environment for large numbers of infections to occur, owing to the interactions between vendors and shoppers.

He said a temporary closure of the market might be necessary to reduce the spread of infection.

“I personally feel he got it (the virus) in the market and brought it home to his family because of the amount of people in the market and the transactions it has there.

“If a closure of the market means saving lives, then I’m all for it.

“I want people to listen to the Prime Minister and his instructions: stay indoors.”

The relative also asked the public to take particular care when accepting cash after business transactions and to take the necessary precautions.

“When you go in the grocery, you get back change and you’re not sure who touched the money. Most people don’t bother to sanitise money, they just stuff it in their pockets and go on their way, and maybe that’s something we should look into.”

Newsday spoke to chairman of the Tunapuna/ Piarco Regional Corporation Kwasi Robinson, who said he was saddened by Bennie’s death, but there was nothing to suggest he had contracted the virus at the Tunapuna market, and was confident that existing protocols there were sufficient to minimise infections.

“We didn’t have any details on if he was in the market or where he contracted the virus.

“We rely on the Ministry of Health guidelines for that kind of information.

“We have a contractor who does sanitising work and we often sanitise the market as an extra precaution,” he added, and stressed, “We don’t have any information on if he had any interactions with other vendors when he was covid-positive.”

He said at the moment the market was considering reducing its opening hours to minimise large gatherings, and observing public health protocols.

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