Cops to patrol groceries to prevent overcrowding

Police will be at supermarkets from now to ensure people don’t gather in large numbers and contribute to the COVID-19 spread.

This was agreed to yesterday by the Supermarket Association of Trinidad and Tobago at a meeting with the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service (TTPS).

The SATT issued a statement yesterday stating its board members met with the TTPS at the Police Service’s request.

TTPS had asked SATT how the association intended to deal with crowd control given the current COVID spike.

Yesterday statistics from the Ministry of health confirmed 223 new COVID cases and 1,065 total active cases.

Yesterday’s SATT and TTPS meeting via a virtual forum was to discuss collaboration on the management of COVID-19 protocols at supermarkets nationwide.

Acting Commissioner of Police, Wendell Williams and various TTPS Divisional heads attended the meeting chaired by SATT President Rajiv Diptee.

According to the statement issued, key concerns raised by TTPS included high volumes of foot traffic expected at month-end throughout the stores at a period when “flattening the COVID curve” is paramount to the national outlook and welfare.

To prevent further spread TTPS and SATT agreed to work together in “a novel collaboration” SATT stated.

The Association added the TTPS will ensure police personnel visit supermarkets, especially during this month-end weekend.

“They’ll work closely with SATT to address any issue of clusters at supermarkets generally, including gatherings that may be deemed high risk where transmission of the virus is concerned,” SATT stated.

“TTPS also strongly supports SATT’s advisory to the public to limit the number of shoppers from any one family, to one (person) as far as practicable. This is to ensure that the volume of traffic at the stores is reduced in an effort to reduce COVID spread.’’

“The public is also strongly urged to adhere to COVID- 19 protocols issued by the Ministry of Health and not to let their guard down as pandemic fatigue creeps in,“ SATT added.

There will be police officers at each supermarket as TTPS has offered to patrol stores during peak shopping periods. There will also be a communication system where supermarkets can quickly reach the police, if needed, to come to disperse any gatherings.

In immediate feedback, some people felt it somewhat premature to involve the TTPS and expressed concern at possible onerous police presence among shoppers. They said the measure was similar to what was implemented by countries that lack the population, size and other aspects of T&T.

But the SATT president Diptee, who said police will be on the supermarket “beat” from today, told Guardian Media, “We understand the situation and we’re recommending only one family member or even two do the shopping as far as possible.“

“We know people may need a second person to assist but we’d like people to refrain from bringing vulnerable elderly people or children to the stores in groups.

“We’ve noted a trend where since beaches and cinemas are closed and gatherings are restricted, people are coming to supermarkets as a form of recreation.”

“We have a month-end coming up and people will get paid, so out of precaution in the COVID situation we face, we’re recommending numbers be limited,” said Diptee.

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