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Business, labour spokespersons hail curfew relaxation

by Randy Bennett
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Business and labour leaders, sensing opportunities for profits and jobs in the Yuletide season amid a viral pandemic’s surge that has killed nearly 200 people, most of them in the last three months, applauded Government on Monday for relaxing the curfew hours extended by the Delta variant’s wave.

Chairman of the Barbados Private Sector Association (BPSA) Trisha Tannis is ecstatic about the decision which has also been praised by the umbrella of trade unions which declared the former 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew as ineffective.

General Secretary of Congress of Trade Unions and Staff Associations (CTUSAB), Dennis DePeiza, told Barbados TODAY he hopes the country would soon return to “full normalcy” while suggesting it has to accept that COVID-19 is here to stay.

But Opposition Leader Bishop Joseph Atherley expressed some concern, saying he hopes Government was not pressured into the move by the private sector.

On Saturday, Prime Minister Mia Mottley announced that beginning Monday, the 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew would be shortened to midnight to 5 a.m.

Tannis told Barbados TODAY: “We obviously welcome it and we welcome the return to some semblance of normalcy in the trading hours particularly at this time of the year and we do think it’s the wise thing to do even through a COVID-19 management perspective. It obviously allows what we are hoping to be the highest trading season of the year to be conducted across longer hours which means hopefully less bunching and less crowding as well.”

She said business owners would be looking forward to Christmas as many of them had been adversely affected because of the curfew and the wave of COVID-19 infections on the island.

Tannis suggested that a combination of the two developments had forced several businesses to close their doors.

She said: “I would not be fair to the conversation without pointing out the fact that I am deeply concerned about the impact of the COVID-19 virus on the frontline of our businesses right now. We are seeing daily disruption which is occasioning closures, not because businesses are responding unreasonably but because the community spread is so excessive that it is causing persons to have to vacate their places of business and employment unexpectedly.

“As you could well imagine, having 7500 persons in isolation and we are talking about 22,000 people out there who are being traced by one way or the other, if not by the Ministry of Health by the employers themselves and therefore with increasing frequency we are getting cases coming back into the work environment and therefore, logistically businesses are unable to operate when you have a chunk of persons being out suddenly and without warning for upwards of one week at a time.”

The BPSA chairman said it would be petitioning Government to expand the definition of frontline workers to include private-sector employees who interact with the public on a daily basis.

CTUSAB’s DePeiza said: “It is obvious and good that we have come to the point of recognizing by our stakeholders, both medical and otherwise, that COVID-19 as a disease isn’t going anywhere and that we have to manage it.

“The idea of locking down a country indefinitely obviously has shown us that the wisdom of that is certainly in question. Common sense has finally prevailed and hopefully, we will be able to get back to full normalcy sooner rather than later.”

But the Opposition Leader said he hoped Government’s decision was made in the best interest of Barbadians and not as a result of pressure.

Bishop Atherley said: “I believe that Government should do very well by itself to listen to the advice of medical professional opinion and not simply be guided by any economic or political considerations.

“Also, Government should be sure that it is not unduly pressured by the voice of the private sector, either with reference to tourism-related activities directly or other aspects of the private interest operating in the economy.” randybennett@barbadostoday.bb

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