Balancing health and the economy is central to good pandemic management

– President Ali says

By Vishani Ragobeer

THROUGH that indoor dining in bars and restaurants can be considered incompatible with national efforts to mitigate the spread and impact of COVID-19, President Dr Irfaan Ali emphasized that balancing health considerations with the economic impact that prolonged closures could businesses are key to managing the pandemic well.

Since March 2020, many local businesses have reduced the services offered or been forced to close their doors, sending their employees home. Now, it’s nearly a year since those restrictions on business activities began.

“As policymakers and as government, working with the medical practitioners and experts, we have to think about the right balance,” President Ali related on Saturday, during an address to the nation at State House.

COVID-19 Emergency Measures (no. 14), which comes into effect from Monday and lasts for the whole month of February, allows indoor dining in bars and restaurants. Indoor dining and opening bars have been banned over the past few months.

However, eating is only allowed between 04:00 am and 9:30 pm. It was further noted that indoor dining in a restaurant and bar is limited to a building’s capacity of 40 percent, tables must be set six feet apart and no more than four persons should sit at one table, and each person must be three feet apart.

President Ali explained that while the government was aware of the health implications that the reopening of these businesses could potentially lead to, a well-policed ​​safe reopening would help to do some redress for businesses and their employees .

Indoor dining in bars and restaurants is monitored by the Guyana Tourism Authority (GTA); businesses are required to organize their premises in accordance with the gaps and adequate sanitation guidelines.

Importantly, President Ali noted that generally accepted industry standards indicate that businesses need at least 35 percent occupancy to cover overhead costs. And, to prevent bankruptcy and reduce the risk to local businesses, these measures have been introduced to provide them with some relief.

He highlighted that this decision had been made following consultation with the National Task Force COVID-19 (NCTF), the GTA, the Guyana Tourism Hospitality Association (THAG) and the Private Sector Commission (PSC).

Meanwhile, the Chief of the COVID-19 Task Force, Prime Minister, Brigadier (ret’d) Mark Phillips appealed to Guyanese to play their part in protecting themselves and their loved ones.

“While we curb the spread of COVID-19, the citizens are the ones who took a responsible role in adhering to the measures and ensuring that their families and communities adhere to those measures,” he said.