Most businesses in St. Vincent and the Grenadines say it would be helpful to their operations if the wearing of masks in public places were made mandatory, says the Chamber of Industry and Commerce.
However, the government says it would prefer to use persuasion and public education to persuade persons to adopt the practice.
“I could see how that would be helpful if it became law then persons couldn’t argue with that,” Tony Regisford, executive director of the CIC said on WE FM on Sunday.
“But, sometimes, making a law is not necessarily going to create the right behaviour,” he said on Issue at Hand, adding that he thinks that people have to want to wear masks and understand why they have to do it for the practice to be most effective.
“I am heartened by the fact that we’re seeing people out in public, 90% of them, if not more, wearing masks and wearing them properly. And that education continues now … to wear a mask properly,” Regisford said in a call in which he spoke about the impact of the pandemic on the private sector.
“We, in the business community, are trying to continue and make the adjustment so that there is no major disruption to commerce,” he said.
He said that the business community is appealing to citizens to help it “to maintain that status quo and they can do that by following the protocols that are outlined.”
Regisford noted that measures are being implemented in the public transport sector, adding, “that’s another important thing because workers and patrons travel using largely the public transport sector.
“So if we are not following the protocols there, then we are putting the whole country at risk. So we, in the business community, we 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.”
He said that SVG must follow the guidelines established by health authorities.
“Wear your mask, keep your social distancing, sanitise. For businesses, because they are in a protective mode, they are taking even more precautions to ensure there is continuity of their business,” Regisford said.
“So 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, sanitising their contact points. By contact point, I mean common areas where people touch. They continue to be sanitised, they insist, a lot of businesses now are insisting on a mask being worn and it is encouraging to note that most people are complying. There are the exceptions, like everything,” he said.
Meanwhile, speaking separately on the same programme, Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves said he is aware that people are calling for the mandatory wearing of masks.
He, however, said it could be difficult to police such a measure.
Gonsalves 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 a mask in the street.
“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?” the prime minister said.
“At first, the received wisdom from the WHO was that masks are not particularly effective and certainly not if one set wear it another set don’t wear it, and we see more and more everybody wearing masks,” he said.