Police close crowded supermarket, block off promenade


Employees from the Port of Spain Corporation employess place barriers around the Brian Lara Promenade in Port of Spain on Saturday, to prevent citizens from gathering. – Angelo Marcelle

POLICE on Saturday were forced to use their heavy hand and temporarily closed a supermarket after customers failed to comply with covid19 protocols issued for supermarkets.

Wes Bees Supermarket in Diego Martin was temporarily shut down after a video circulated on Facebook with complaints of overcrowding outside the grocery.

Supermarkets operators have urged for only one shopper per family to reduce crowds and can only allow half of the number of people it can accommodate at any one time in keeping with new health protocols which came into effect on Saturday.

The video showed customers crammed under tents trying to avoid the rain as they waited to enter the supermarket.

On its Facebook page the supermarket chain stated: “Due to a lack of social distancing under tents outside our Diego Martin location by those entering our store, we’ve been asked to close til 5 pm.”

“When we reopen, more tents will be available as well as more earmarked space for a socially distanced line to enter our branch.”

Wes Bees said it was doing its part to guide customers on the new entry policy to ensure a safe shopping experience as well as to help the nation mitigate the spread of covid19.

“Please do your part in keeping a sense of personal responsibility and responsibility towards your neighbours. It takes all of us to beat this virus,” the supermarket said in its notice.

At Persad’s supermarket in Marbella, which is located a short distance away, the process flowed smoothly.

Rhonda Persad, a customer, said she was pleased with the protocols in place and was surprised by the friendliness of the staff.

“I came from Gasparillo to shop here. The service is great and the staff ensures that people comply with protocols.”

One staff member who stood by the door, ensured that trolleys were sanitised and people washed their hands and took their temperature.

“We do get the odd person trying to be loud and argumentative and it does affect us mentally. We are all under stress but we have to deal with it in the nicest way possible because if we are roughly, even when we are trying to get people to do the correct thing, we get blamed wrongfully.”

On Friday, Commissioner of Police Gary Griffith visited several establishments in Port-of-Spain, St James, Maraval, and Diego Martin, where he spoke to several managers of supermarkets and groceries and advised them of the latest public health regulations.

“I specifically spoke to Wes Bees on Friday and told them how to distance their crowds and have their employees ensure that their customers are socially distancing.

“Any time I see any establishment have people packed like channa in a doubles, I will shut it down until they get their act together,” Griffith said on Saturday.

At JTA supermarket in Marabella security guards had to intervene to quell complaints from customers who had lined up outside the grocery but were getting wet by the rain.

When Sunday Newsday visited there was a crowd of shoppers huddled under two tents.

One customer who wished not to be named said the supermarket needed to provide adequate accommodation for people outside the grocery.

“We are approaching the rainy season and if this protocol remains then more than two tents for us. Even if it is not raining, they really need accommodate customers properly. Imagine the elderly having to brace poor weather conditions.”

On Friday, the Prime Minister, at a media briefing asked the police to do what was necessary to encourage the population in the fight against covid19. Dr Rowley warned: “For those people who believe the only thing to respond to is the heavy hand, the police have a heavy hand.”

Rowley said the heavy-handedness was part of his call for the country to “batten down” until May 23 to keep the number of positive cases down. For the past week, 32 people died of covid19 with seven between Friday and Saturday. There was a recorded high of 402 cases in the past 48 hours, the highest on record.

Port of Spain Mayor Joel Martinez also responded with a heavy-hand to keep people from gathering on the Brian Lara Promenade as he instructed municipal officers to block off the Brian Lara Promenade to stop illegal gatherings. The cordoning off of the area took place hours after police arrested 20 people who were gathered at a recreation club in the city.

He said after hearing how Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh was moved to tears after seeing people disregard public health regulations, he was moved to block off the promenade to disrupt illegal gatherings.

On Saturday, motorists and pedestrians saw police officer place guard rails along the promenade in an attempt to stop illegal gatherings. Red caution tape was also placed in other areas with frequent foot patrols by officers.

Martinez said the measures should have been done a long time ago. He said on Thursday, Supt Glen Charles of the Port of Spain Municipal Police asked for the promenade to be blocked off and the council approved the measure on Friday. The corporation borrowed barriers from the police to block off certain areas, leaving room only for pedestrian short cuts.

“People are not taking this seriously. On Charlotte Street on Friday I saw vendors selling and chatting as normal with no face mask. I had to call the police,” Martinez said adding that while he understood the need to earn a living, the lives of the country was at stake.

He said he increased the police presence at the Central Market to ensure there is adequate physical distancing and to enforce any other breaches of the regulations.

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