Chamber of commerce urges PM to reconsider complete lockdown, says it is gravely concerned

Noting that it is “gravely concerned,” the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers Confederation (BCCEC) on Tuesday urged Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis to reconsider current seven day lockdown for New Providence.

BCCEC Chairperson Khrystle Rutherford Ferguson said that many in the business community, as well as the general public, had no notice and were unable to adequately prepare for a complete lockdown, leaving many without sufficient access to food, water and medication.

Under the new lockdown, Minnis said food stores, gas stations, private pharmacies and water depots are not allowed to open.

“The BCCEC urges the competent authority to reconsider this position, having regard for the likely event that thousands of persons will flood food stores, gas stations and pharmacies, immediately following the lifting of the lockdown,” she said in a statement.

“We believe that large numbers of persons congregating on long lines for hours has been and will be counterproductive to reducing the spread of COVID-19; and may have an injurious effect on any possible health gains achieved from such a lockdown. Many businesses have invested heavily in implementing COVID-19 safety protocols in an effort to ensure the safety of its patrons, continue its operations and comply with provisions, as mandated by the emergency orders.”

Additionally, Rutherford-Ferguson said the business community is also concerned that without access to its premises, many businesses will be without the records needed to complete July VAT filings, and be able to fulfill payroll commitments.

“The BCCEC encourages the government to consider an extension on VAT filings in that regard,” she said.

Instead of continued lockdowns, the BCCEC recommended the competent authority place greater emphasis on enforcing adherence to COVID-19 protocols in an effort to balance health and safety, while protecting livelihoods and ensuring that there is an appropriate level of access to goods and services.

“Anyone not adhering to protocols should be penalized, this also includes businesses,” she said.

“Businesses and individuals in adherence should not be made to suffer through commercial inactivity and inadequate access to goods and services.

“Implement a phased approach to resuming full commercial activity on a daily basis for reduced hours in the first instance, then extended hours of operation. Panic buying and long lines may be reduced if persons have more predictability and access to goods and services. This method worked well before the second wave of cases and supports domestic consumption.”

Citing increasing numbers of COVID-19 cases in the capital, Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis said more restrictive measures are absolutely necessary in order to bring the virus under control on New Providence.

New Providence has seen more than 649 COVID-19 cases since the country’s borders were opened to international commercial flights on July 1.

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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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