Most businesses in St. Vincent and the Grenadines say it would be helpful to their operations in the current COVID-19 environment if the wearing of masks in public places was made mandatory, the Chamber of Industry and Commerce (CIC) has said.
However, Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves has indicated that his government would prefer to use persuasion and public education to encourage persons to adopt the practice.
Calling in on local radio programme Issue at Hand, where he spoke about the impact of the pandemic on the private sector, executive director of the CIC Tony Regisford said a mandatory order could assist, although he acknowledged there was no guarantee people would fall into line.
“If it became law then persons couldn’t argue with that. But, sometimes, making a law is not necessarily going to create the right behaviour,” he said, adding that people must want to wear masks and understand why they have to do so for the practice to be most effective,” he said.
“I am heartened by the fact that we’re seeing people out in public – 90 per cent of them, if not more – wearing masks and wearing them properly; and that education continues now … to wear a mask properly.
“We, in the business community, are trying to continue and make the adjustment so that there is no major disruption to commerce,” he added.
Regisford made an appeal, on behalf of the private sector, for citizens to help businesses “maintain that status quo and they can do that by following the protocols that are outlined.”
Specifically pointing to measures being implemented in the public transport sector, he said if protocols are not followed, the entire country would be put at risk.
“So we, in the business community, are in compliance, largely. We need to be; our survival depends on that. And it’s not only our survival; we employ people and for us not to have any major disruption or downturn in the employment figures, then we need to do what we are being asked to do.”
“I can tell you as a fact that supermarkets, all those businesses that are high traffic, I know that from interacting with them and their managers, they are assiduously cleaning their contact points, sanitizing their contact points. By contact point, I mean common areas where people touch. They continue to be sanitized . . . a lot of businesses now are insisting on a mask being worn and it is encouraging to note that most people are complying,” Regisford added as he urged residents to “wear your mask, keep your social distancing, sanitize”.
Speaking separately on the same programme, Prime Minister Gonsalves said while he had heard calls for wearing of face masks to be made mandatory, that could be a difficult measure to police.
He said that one day after the government gave two masks to each student last year, he took a drive around Kingstown and only one of over 100 students he saw were wearing masks in the streets.
“What do you do? Are you going to arrest a child? That’s the way you are going to use police resources? Isn’t it a better way that we do it through education and let us fight this pandemic together and let good sense prevail, that we wear our masks?” Gonsalves said.