Chambers fear another lockdown as COVID cases climb

Places like bars, cinemas and gyms have only just reopened their doors but, with COVID-19 cases on the rise so too is the anxiety among businesses.

Several business groups are worried the Government may resort to another lockdown to curb the spread of the disease.

Chief Executive Officer of the Trinidad and Tobago Chamber of Industry and Commerce, Gabriel Faria, said there is disquiet among members who have been asking whether they will have to close their doors again. Faria told Guardian Media even with the lifting of restrictions consumers have been cautiously spending only on essential items.

“There is a sense of unknown as in what are the Government’s plans. What we are seeing is reduced consumer activity because of the concern of the unknown due to the increase cases in COVID. Consumers are saying ‘let me save up in the event we have to go into another lockdown,’” Faria lamented.

He added, “I could tell you that many of them (businesses) did not survive the last one. What we are seeing right now is that most businesses have gone into hibernation. Many businesses have given up their businesses and they are now working from home; they have staff working on some sort of rotation because they can’t afford to pay them.”

Despite the Christmas season being around the corner, President of the Arima Business Association, Christian Rampersad, said consumers usually begin shopping around this time, however, this has not been happening. In fact, he described it as, “the slowest period for them in over a decade”.

According to him, “The majority of the economy has reopened however; most consumers have been out of jobs for quite some time and some have worked for reduced income in many cases so their spending power is significantly less and the costs of consumables are higher.”

“I think that (lockdown) is something the entire country is wary and terrified about, because the business community and I don’t think the economy could handle another lockdown of any magnitude. The previous lockdowns did not appear to have worked even with the cases,” Rampersad noted.

Divali has shined a light on businesses in central Trinidad. According to President of the Chaguanas Chamber, Richie Sookhai, consumer activities were higher than expected, as such, he is anticipating a fairly safe Christmas period especially with the State of Emergency expiring at the end of the month.

But he admitted there is still unease in the public domain about policy decisions in the near future.

“Government should ideally start looking at the examples in other countries so this idea of locking down every time there is a spike in cases or it is getting out of hand is a scenario, they should start rethinking and stop restricting the economic activity,” Sookhai suggested.

The business groups believe an expansion of the TT Safe Zone initiative, starting with the public services sector, will encourage more people to get vaccinated.

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