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SEAN NERO

While the management of Queen’s Hall in St Ann’s, Port-of-Spain, remains under public scrutiny over possible breaches in the Covid-19 health protocols in the staging of last Sunday’s Sekon Sunday Concert, Arts and Culture minister Randall Mitchell has moved to examine pandemic guidelines at all national performance venues.

At an emergency meeting convened digitally Wednesday, Mitchell met with chairpersons and managers of facilities paid for by tax-payers and maintained by the state to urgently address and possibly implement additional measures to ensure their roll-out of services were in keeping with the “letter, spirit and intent” of the Public Health Ordinance Regulations which stipulate, among other things: “operations at 50 percent capacity and modified seating arrangements to allow physical distancing.”

A Live! streamed video from Sekon Sunday raised concerns about possible lapses in medical guidelines at Queen’s Hall, for which users of these spaces were obligated to follow.

At that meeting, leaders of the National Academy for The Performing Arts; Southern Academy for The Performing Arts; and Naparima Bowl were reportedly given a ministerial directive to adopt more stringent measures to demand greater compliance from renters.

A media release, stated that venue operators must ensure patrons remain seated during performances and that:

  • attendees would not be allowed to congregate in the front area of the stage, in aisles, or unnecessarily move around during performances;
  • announcements and reminders will be made throughout the event as needed;
  • some spaces will further revise their seating arrangements to ensure the appropriate physical distancing;

Mitchell said, “No one can deny the passion and love that we have for our culture. We all really find it difficult not to move when the soca music captures you. The reality is, however, that the virus thrives in an environment where physical distance and other health measures are not observed and we can’t let COVID-19 win.”

It was a busy day for the minister who also met with Police Commissioner Gary Griffith.

Both officials spoke on the issue of adherence to the public health regulations at the national performance spaces and the outcome of police enquiries made into the Sekon Sunday concert.

The commissioner indicated his satisfaction with the COVID-19 health protocols in place at the Queen’s Hall and is said to be satisfied with undertakings given by its management to implement additional measures to ensure physical distancing.

Mitchell said the preservation of lives by reducing the spread of COVID-19 remained a top priority for the ministry.

“We need our patrons to support these spaces by remaining disciplined and abiding by the health guidelines. The protocols are in place to protect all of us.”

Ministry officials were anticipating that during what would have been a period of pre-Carnival activities, creatives would seek out venues such as those managed by the state to host events.

Therefore, utilising health and safety guidelines issued by the Ministry of Health (MOH), for the re-opening of cinemas and theatres last year, the leadership of national performance spaces also collaborated with the health officials to create specific industry guidelines.