Mainly maskless crowd attends VPL final at Arnos Vale over the weekend
By Bria King
The massive, mainly maskless crowd at the Vincy Premier League (VPL), final at Arnos Vale over the weekend, has become a catalyst for renewed calls of tighter policing of coronavirus regulations in St Vincent and the Grenadines.
A majority of spectators attending the game was observed to be flouting the COVID19 protocols and social media was abuzz with questions about the application of apparent different layers of standards demanded.
The disregard for the protocols by patrons at the final VPL match was immortalised in pictures circulated via social media, where people were seen without face masks or wearing them improperly.
Physical distancing guidelines were also ignored at Sunday’s cricket competition, and the photos shared over the weekend have left members of the public lamenting what seems to be the uneven enforcement of the regulations by Police.
“…To say I was disappointed is to use a mild word. I was utterly dismayed with what I saw,” Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves said on NBC radio yesterday morning, in response to photos he saw from the match.
Gonsalves, who holds ministerial responsibility for national security, said he spoke with the Commissioner of Police, Colin John, on the matter after he received photographs and videos of the event.
He said from his observation, only 20 per cent of the people present seemed to be wearing masks.
“And police were around, and I asked the question, why were people not asked to put on their mask and to disburse people because you had, in addition to the Mike Findlay stand and the PH [Veira] stand, you had other stands you can put people, including the double decker, to spread people out,” Gonsalves said.
The Prime Minister added that if people were opposed to wearing their masks and physically distancing, then the police should have cleared the stands completely and let the cricket match be played just for people viewing on television.
The Minister of National Security further said that what happened “has to do with weak policing of the COVID protocols and regulations, and also the lack of a sufficient observance by our people of the protocols on COVID and the regulations”.
This is the third occasion on which the VPL has been held in SVG.
On this occasion, the event was scheduled to run from May 15 to 30 with two matches daily. Six teams took part in the competition.
Commissioner of Police Colin John told SEARCHLIGHT yesterday that police were present at Sunday’s competition, but neither the police nor the organisers anticipated the large crowd.
“It is something that in the future we will ensure that we are more proactive about,” he said.
It is unclear what were the specific COVID19 protocols for the event.
However, SEARCHLIGHT understands that approved protocols for the final two days of the VPL competition in November 2020 allowed for a maximum of 800 spectators across three stands; the Michael Findlay, PH Veira and Frank Thomas stands.
The November 2020 protocols outlined that there were to be a maximum of 300 persons in the Michael Findlay stand, which has a capacity of 1000; a maximum of 300 in the Frank Thomas stand, which has a capacity of 1101 and a maximum of 200 in the PH Veira stand, which has a capacity of 400.
It was also outlined that the spectators sit five seats apart from each other. This was visibly not the case at the final VPL match of 2021 held last Sunday.
When SEARCHLIGHT contacted Kishore Shallow, the VPL tournament director yesterday, he said Romel Currency, president of the SVG Cricket Association, is better suited to comment on what transpired at the competition over the weekend.
Currency could not be reached for comment up to press time.
Separate from the VPL competition, there is seemingly a general consensus that COVID protocols have not been administered as strictly as they should be in recent times as it relates to social gatherings such as at bars, restaurants and on public modes of transportation.
Montgomery Daniel, who was speaking in the capacity of Acting Prime Minister last Friday, May 28 on Star FM said the Ministry of Health is concerned about the spread of COVID19 across SVG.
He outlined that the Ministry has observed a continuous neglect of social distancing.
“The protocols as it relates to mass gathering will be enforced. There will be no indoor dining, no gathering in public places. On public transportation, protocols will be maintained and then you have in terms of churches, they are still down to their capacity of one third. In terms of parties and funerals and weddings, of course, these are expected to maintain the protocols as required,” Daniel said.
He also said that starting from last weekend, the police were asked to increase their patrol and method of control.
“…The police is being asked to increase in terms of their methods of control, in terms of the reduction of COVID19; so that whether it is amplified music or not, whether there are large gatherings that they cannot be less than the six feet as required by the protocols,” he said on radio.
Daniel’s comments came just days before the VPL finals and a number of other social gatherings that attracted large crowds in various locations of the country.
There was heavy police presence on the roads on Friday evening, and several vans were pulled over for being in breach of COVID19 regulations which dictate that bus operators carry less than their licensed capacity.
The Prime Minister also said on radio that large crowds can usually be seen at Bikers Bar near the gas station at Bentinck Square in Kingstown, at Heritage Square and along the Villa strip at Mangoz, and one or two of the other establishments in the vicinity.
Amplified music has also been prohibited by Police so as to limit the number of social gatherings taking place locally.
“I wouldn’t say that there is uneven enforcement but from time to time, there are certain areas that we would – people gather without playing amplified music so in those cases, as far as the law permits, we would try and enforce the protocols.”
the Commissioner of Police told SEARCHLIGHT.
“We hope to be more proactive based on the intel [we receive] and it’s a new area of policing ,so we have to be tactful when enforcing it as well.”
John noted that both patrons and proprietors can be ticketed for breaching COVID19 protocols, with fines ranging from EC$100 to EC$500.
He noted that the police have been talking to proprietors of various establishments and organisers of events about the enforcement of the existing protocols.
And he indicated that there are other means of penalties that can be meted out to those who breach the established rules; for instance, licenses may be revoked in some instances.
While he could not give specifics as it relates to last weekend, the Commissioner said tickets have been issued in the past for breaching regulations relating to COVID19.
The most recent COVID19 report issued by the Ministry of Health, dated Saturday, May 29 indicate that there were 192 active cases in SVG.
Since March 2020, a total of 2035 cases have been recorded in this country. To date, 1831 have recovered.
A total of 20,768 COVID19 vaccines have been administered.