(TRINIDAD GUARDIAN) – Scores of people gathered at the Bethel ‘The House of God’ church in Freeport on Thursday night for its annual memorial service, despite instructions by Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley that there should be no more than ten people in public gatherings.
The instructions were issued on Wednesday as part of the response to the spread of the COVID-19 virus in T&T but Pastor Dalton Bruce disregarded that order last night as members of the congregation flocked to the event.
Residents at Calcutta #2, Freeport, where the church is located, raised concerns when they saw carloads of people pulling up at the church’s compound, noting that there were a lot of elderly and vulnerable folks living nearby and they were very fearful of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The service started at 7 pm and a party of police arrived at the compound and spoke to officials before 8 pm and then left. However, a second party of officers arrived at about 9 pm and stood guard on the road while Bruce preached to the gathering.
From the road, Bruce could be heard lashing out at the Government, saying that they allowed COVID-19 into the country by allowing Carnival to go on.
“Take it in your mouth now…lock me up if you want, I’m talking the truth,” Bruce shouted.
He also threw words at the police officers who were in the road, saying “they can wait there to lock me up…I will have them wait whole night if I have too.”
After the pastor stopped preaching at about 9.50 pm, another church official graced the pulpit to say there were no COVID-19 cases at the service. He then announced that they would be stopping services on Sunday and would advise further. He also said because of complaints from neighbours they had erected a fence.
They also defiantly told the police that they are not breaking any law but remained committed and would comply.
Church official Anand Ramroop later told the Guardian Media that the special seven-night memorial meeting is an annual event and started over the weekend.
Ramroop, however, noted that under instructions of the pastor, they practised social distancing in the event by having people sit three feet from each other and warned that there be no hugging, kissing and shaking of hands. He also noted that hand sanitizers were being used to sanitise the hands of people and also their vehicles.
Ramroop said the congregants from its branch churches in Cedros and Guayaguayare were asked not to make their way to Freeport for precautionary measures. He claimed that they had notified police officers from the Central Division about the event.