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Chamber: Prolonged lockdown would be devastating

Following Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis’ announcement that he was reinstating weekend lockdowns because of a surge in COVID-19 cases, Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers’ Confederation Chairperson Khrystle Rutherford-Ferguson said the fine balance of protecting public health and safety while permitting economic activity must be maintained.

The country, now experiencing its second wave of the COVID-19 outbreak, has had 342 confirmed cases of the contagious virus, the majority of which were recorded since the country’s borders were reopened to international commercial flights on July 1.

As a result, the prime minister announced on Friday new restrictive measures requiring all businesses to cease operations by 6 p.m. daily and also prohibiting all businesses from operating on weekends except grocery stores,

pharmacies and gas stations.

Rutherford-Ferguson said a prolonged lockdown would be devastating.

“As the private sector, we know firsthand the impact of the lockdown measures and what that means for the survival of our businesses and the staff that we employ. Many families depend on the survival of our businesses as a source of income and to provide much needed goods and services. Additionally, and to a great extent, the government depends on the private sector as a source of revenue through taxes,” she told Guardian Business.

“These taxes fund community projects, social benefits enjoyed by all and provide resources for capital works. Hence, the fine balance of protecting public health and safety while permitting economic activity must be maintained. Any prolonged lockdown will have a devastating impact on our economy.”

Fish vendors at the Montague Dock are also prohibited from operating, as well as gyms. Salons and barbers are allowed to operate with one client per stylist.

Rutherford-Ferguson said this is a pivotal time in the country’s history, where each person has a role to play in government, the community and private sector. She added that all must be resolute in the level of discipline needed to control the community spread of COVID-19.

“There are many things about the COVID-19 virus that are not within our control. However, there are certain elements within our control, such as how vigilant we are with adhering to the health and safety protocols. Patrons, employees and employers alike can come together to ensure strict adherence,” the Chamber chair said.

“The influence of the private sector is great. As a community partner, we will do our part to ensure that our patrons and workers adhere to the protocols established by the Ministry of Health. Continued collaboration between the public, private and community constituents will be our greatest asset in mitigating the spread of the virus, as well as the adverse economic impact. What we decide to do today or fail to do, will have far and wide implications for us all tomorrow.”

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