While further restrictions were being imposed on business activity in T&T yesterday to curb the spread of COVID-19, several European countries lifted their own measures in an attempt to restart economic activity.
Germany, Denmark, Norway, and the Czech Republic all removed various restrictions yesterday in an attempt to balance public health with economic revival.
Among the first businesses allowed to reopen in Germany yesterday were bookstores, car dealerships, and bike stores.
Germans still have to exercise social distancing by remaining at least five feet away from each other in these businesses.
According to official figures Germany recorded 1,775 new cases for the past day, while the number of deaths linked to COVID-19 rose by 110 to 4,404.
A study published April 6 in the medical journal The Lancet and a separate paper by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development — suggest that school closures are less important than workplace closures in stemming the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Denmark and Norway have reopened schools.
In T&T non-essential services have been closed since March 30.
Denise James, however, is hoping that these businesses would not have to wait much longer before they can reopen.
Stay at home orders in T&T are so far expected to remain in effect until April 30 as part of T&T’s fight to stop the spread of COVID-19 and save lives.
Since then James has lost her job and has not been paid.
To make matters worse she has found out that her company has not been paying National Insurance so she cannot access the $1,500 Salary Relief Grant being offered by the government.
She has visited the Social Development Ministry to see if she can get access to the Income Support Grant being offered there but so far has been unsuccessful.
“I am frustrated. I’m under reel pressure and I feel like everything is going wrong,” James said.
Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar yesterday called on the government to spare a thought for this country’s poor and suffering.
“Think about the poor in our society, they are suffering, their lives matter too! Many are having great difficulty in providing for themselves and their loved ones,” Persad-Bissessar stated.
“Decisions on the reopening of businesses and the wider economy must be put forward. I agree we cannot be reckless with citizens’ physical and mental health, but the country must know what the short and medium-term plans of the government are. The only persons reasonably comfortable in the current situation are persons who can still collect their salaries. What about those who had nothing to eat this morning,” she stated.
Businessman Peter George said the government “must act with significantly more speed, vigour, and innovativeness to address T&T looming economic crisis”.
“Government seems on the face to be taking a measured approach, consistent with a conventional economic situation as opposed to the efforts seen with most of our international partners! This is a treacherous path fraught with peril as time is not an ally here,” he stated.
George said many businesses may fold or suffer significantly contracted operations and therefore called on the government to be prepared to inject ample liquidity to ensure economic continuity.
“Citizens and business owners large and small must be assured, and quickly, that relief is forthcoming in order for them to have the confidence and comfort to continue ‘loss’ operations. We are not just facing a short term shock from COVID-19, but we face the spectre of significant economic drag from an economy that was already in secular stagnation, threatening to wipe out all progress made in recent years,” he said.
“We must do everything to keep the economic engine running. Many businesses, if not reassured of assistance, will simply fold up their tents which will be catastrophic to the economy. The risk of doing too much is negligible whereas the risk of doing too little is calamitous,” he stated.
Allison Peart of Jamaica speaking in a webinar hosted by the Inter-American Development Bank said business continuity is essential at this time.
“How you react to any crisis whether it is a hurricane, or whether it is a pandemic your business continuity is very, very important,” she said.
The webinar was titled “The Caribbean and Coronavirus; Options for Business.”
Vincent Vanderpool-Wallace of the Bedford Baker Group said businesses would need to find opportunities in the face of the challenges being faced.
“Conventional wisdom says that in order to get back to business, as usual, we need to find some kind of vaccine so that we can make sure that the visitors and the service providers are going to be able to comingle, well that is going to take a very long period of time and if you beginning to look at the finance of the countries in the Caribbean there is no way in the world that we can wait until that period of time,” he said.
“The real problem nowadays is if we want to get back any business I think we have to pivot and we have to find a way that we are going to be able to move very rapidly from predicting rain to building arks,” Vanderpool-Wallace said.