Business operators embrace Sunday-only lockdown
JMDA hopes it will ease crowding as customers rush to stock up
The business community has welcomed news of the ending of the weekly three-day lockdowns which they complained was threatening the viability of their operations.
On Wednesday, as he announced the latest restrictions to curtail the spread of the coronavirus, Prime Minister Andrew Holness said that instead of the weekly Sunday to Tuesday lockdowns, which have been in place since mid-August, only Sunday would now be seen as a no-movement day.
Several businesses operators and vendors across the island had complained about losing millions during the previous three-day measure, especially as they were also asked to close at midday on Fridays.
Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica (PSOJ) Executive Director Imega Breese McNab said that her members have welcomed the adjusted measures, which will also see the nightly weekday curfew beginning an hour later, at 8 p.m.
“ ... The reduction of the nightly curfew hours will provide much-needed reprieve to businesses, especially small retailers and restaurants, who will benefit from the additional business hour,” she told The Gleaner.
“The removal of no-movement days during the work week is also a step in the right direction to encourage business continuity. Many of our members reported a decline in productivity and revenue on those days,” she added.
Breese McNab said that some PSOJ members had indicated that the no-movement days during the week were affecting their ability to meet standard overhead obligations such as salaries and utility payments and could cripple their operations.
“This return to some level of normalcy with a five-day work week will afford those business operators an opportunity to recover some losses,” she said.
Jamaica Manufacturers and Exporters Association President John Mahfood said his group also welcomes the return of Mondays and Tuesdays as regular days.
“A large percentage of our members, 70 per cent, are small- and medium-size companies, and these companies were severely affected by the four weeks of lockdown because of the problems with the public transport [and] not enough days for people to shop. Supermarkets and other places that had to shut down had much reduced business, and so, in turn, our members had a large reduction in their business,” he told The Gleaner.
Jamaica Medical Doctors Association President Dr Mindi Fitz Henley also embraced the changes, hoping that it will ease crowding at business places.
“We welcome any and all changes that are made under the direction of the chief epidemiologist and the chief medical officer as well as all of the directions from the public- health experts, and once these decisions are made following those guidelines, then we, of course, are hopeful that it will make a difference,” she said.
“What was happening for the days after the no-movement days, there was heavy crowding in many locations ... so we do know that this was a cause for concern, and so scientifically, I don’t think that that was going to be very helpful towards trying to reduce the numbers of hospitalisations and the numbers of death,” she added, although noting the still high hospitalisation and death figures.
Downtown Kingston vendor Pamela Watson said the previous restriction had impacted her earnings and the window within which to conduct personal business.
“It did rough, rough for me, very rough for me because me want to go look things to come to the market here come sell and mi can’t get fi do it til Wednesday, and it hard. Mi have mi hair fi do and mi can’t do mi hair ... . When Wednesday come and the place open now, you go a, one big, long line ... . The place full up; crowd up,” Watson told The Gleaner.
She supports the move to restrict movement fully only on Sundays.
So, too, does coconut vendor Marcus Whyte, who said that the previous three-day weekly restriction resulted in him having to pay someone to help him package his items for the market because he could no longer do it as was customary within the regular five working days.
“We lose, enuh, but we nuh lose no whole heap still ... . When we wait til Wednesday, it give we more work and we have to hire one next somebody weh yuh never want fi hire [to help],” Whyte said.
Rohan Grant, who operates a handcart in downtown Kingston, is also happy that “money can mek little more better”.