Chamber: Businesses express concern about lockdown

The Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers’ Confederation (BCCEC) yesterday called for more clarification from the competent authority on just how far reaching the two-week lockdown announced on Monday would be in the business community.

The Chamber stated that in addition to requesting clarification, it has also submitted recommendations to the competent authority on ways to sustain the economy while ensuring the health and safety of Bahamians and residents.

BCCEC Chief Executive Officer Jeffrey Beckles said if he had to sum it up in one word, the sentiment throughout the business community is concern, however he noted that the competent authority has been very responsive to hearing the concerns of businesses and providing the clarity needed.

“We shared our request for clarity and it’s gone well so far. Needless to say, nobody wants to be here, right? But it is what it is and we have to do our part to work with our stakeholders and work with the government to see a clear path going forward,” he told Guardian Business.

“Everybody’s concerned. I think that would be the one word because let’s not forget that the initial lockdown had a huge impact on company operations throughout the country. Any life that was being breathed back into the business community was well received over the last several weeks. And to now have to go through another lockdown, yeah, I think it’s fair to say that business owners are concerned. These are the same businesses that have been taking that economic hit over the last 16 to 17 weeks, so they have to take this in, we all have to take this in and try to figure out what’s next.”

BCCEC Chairperson Khrystle Rutherford-Ferguson said in addition to clarification, more of a balance needs to be struck between the necessary health and safety protocols and the equally necessary economic activity.

“Generally, the Chamber’s position is that the surge in cases is undeniable. We’ve seen an exponential surge in positive COVID-19 cases, which causes pause for concern. Having said that, with regard to the announcement about the lockdown, it does leave some gaps in terms of the details of how exactly it would impact all businesses. For instance, we know that food stores are permitted to operate Monday, Wednesday and Friday, but what wasn’t quite clear from the announcement was whether wholesalers would be able to operate, as they contribute to the food supply chain. So that’s an essential element of who else would be permitted to operate,” she told Guardian Business.

“In addition to that, there are other business-to-business services that support many of the essential services and support those persons deemed essential workers. So, some clarification is needed in that regard.

“Again, though, although there is this realization that the surge in cases is something that you cannot turn a blind eye to, we always have to remember that there has to be a healthy balance between the health and safety of Bahamians and residents as well as the impact that all of these things will have on the economy.”

Since July 8, the country has 611 confirmed cases of COVID-19. As a result of this second surge in cases, the prime minister announced on Monday a nationwide lockdown for a minimum of two weeks.

During the lockdown, which began last night at 10 p.m., food stores, water depots, pharmacies (from curbside or takeaway windows only) and gas stations (for external services only) will be permitted to open to the public from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Monday, Wednesday and Friday; and from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday to essential workers.

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Paige McCartney

Paige joined The Nassau Guardian in 2010 as a television news reporter and anchor. She has covered countless political and social events that have impacted the lives of Bahamians and changed the trajectory of The Bahamas. Paige started working as a business reporter in August 2016. Education: Palm Beach Atlantic University in 2006 with a BA in Radio and Television News

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