Large gatherings at bars and restaurants still a challenge for COVID unit

Large gatherings at business places and the continued operation of prohibited businesses have been challenges for police, Chief Superintendent Zhivago Dames, the officer in charge of the COVID Enforcement Unit, said yesterday.

Dames said over the holidays his unit was especially busy responding to reports of crowds at businesses.

“We found that a number of persons actually were social gathering at business places, in particular, bars and restaurants,” he said.

“And so, we have been checking and ensuring that those business places as they have patrons come in that they continue to follow the protocols. And those business establishments I must say, where we found that they were in breach of the protocols, we ensured that they were dealt with.”

Dames added, “A number of places were given citations, either for patrons not wearing their masks or not having an ID. A lot of the businesses also were cited for actually operating a prohibited business, like operating a bar. Persons were attending their businesses operating around the bar or patronizing the bar, and they were cited.”

Dames said that those businesses continue to be among the biggest offenders of the COVID-19 emergency order.

“We find that a number of bar houses, in particular in the nights, as they operate, they are operating prohibited bars,” he said.

“And they have a number of persons at their bars who are patronizing their bars, sitting around their bars, and drinking. Be aware and know that that is an offense according to the orders.”

He continued, “We’re not saying that you cannot operate your bar. What we’re saying to you is that no person should be sitting around your bars. So, if they come into the establishment, get their drinks and leave, but they should not be sitting inside the bars.”

Dames said that while many vendors at Arawak Cay adhere to the rules, the area is sometimes prone to large crowds.

“While we understand that a lot of the businesses out there are doing their best to follow the protocols, we find that on particular nights like Sunday nights, a lot of people tend to find their way to Arawak Cay,” he said.

“And that actually is a concern for us because we know that we are still in a pandemic and we want to ensure that we continue to see our numbers trend down.”

Dames said there are more than 30 officers in the COVID Enforcement Unit, and some 92 ambassadors. He said more manpower would be helpful, but the team has been fielding calls and checking businesses on a daily basis since it was formed in August last year.

“We have already checked some 9,000 plus businesses over the last couple of months,” he said.

He added, “I would say on average per month, we would have at least on over 500 calls per month easily here at the center.”

Dames said efforts at the airports have also been increased in an effort to ensure adherence to the domestic travel protocols.

Current protocols require that people traveling from New Providence to other islands have a negative PCR test no more than five days old, as well as a health visa.

Dames said ambassadors have again been placed at the airports to increase monitoring of the requirements.

“The duty of the ambassadors at the airport is to ensure that persons who are traveling that they have their travel visa and also that they have their negative COVID test,” he said.

He added, that pilots allow people to “come on your flight and they don’t have the relevant documents, remember that you, too, can be cited”.

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Rachel Scott

Rachel joined The Nassau Guardian in January 2019. Rachel covers national issues. Education: University of Virginia in Charlottesville, BA in Foreign Affairs and Spanish

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