The closure of restaurants and the weekend lockdowns will cripple small businesses, says chamber president
NASSAU, BAHAMAS — The Eleuthera Chamber of Commerce has urged the competent authority to “immediately revisit” the recently announced restrictions for the island, warning that the measures are a major deterrent to tourism and will “cripple” many of the island’s small businesses.
In a letter addressed to the competent authority dated November 9, businessman and Eleuthera Chamber of Commerce President Thomas Sands called for the restrictions being imposed on the island to be revisited.
Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis announced the restrictions on Sunday amid rising cases of the coronavirus on the island.
The island is now under a 24-hour weekend curfew and nightly weekday curfew.
Spanish Wells and Harbour Island have been exempted from the increased restrictions.
A 6pm to 5am curfew is now in effect Monday through Friday, while a 24-hour weekend curfew will run from Fridays at 6pm to Mondays at 5am.
All bars and restaurants connected to bars will be closed and all private and social gatherings on the island have been prohibited.
During the weekend curfew, businesses will be prohibited from operating, including pharmacies, restaurants and food stores.
Sands noted that most Eleutheran businesses “have made every effort to comply with the emergency orders”.
“This fact needs to be acknowledged as the majority of businesses have made significant investments to safeguard the public by hiring additional security as well as providing temperature checks and hand sanitizing stations inside their businesses. We have not taken this pandemic light,” Sands noted.
He added: “We stand with the government of The Bahamas in its effort to rid our island of this virus. That being said, we believe we need to be surgical, deliberate and strategic about our approach if we are going to accomplish our goal of creating and maintaining a COVID-free environment while also protecting our economy.”
Sands noted that the island is just entering its peak tourism season, with early indicators showing an increased interest in the island.
“With this in mind we need to ensure that there is a balanced approach so that businesses which have been in desperate need of this economic lift, do not lose out,” Sand noted.
He continued: “To this end, we would like the competent authority to revisit the airlift restriction. Many persons have already booked their holidays and it is distressing for their plans to be interrupted at this stage.
“We have seen throughout this pandemic that guests have been very compliant with the rules and there is no need to deter those who want to visit from coming.
“Additionally, we are gravely concerned about the decision to close restaurants and bars.
“Instead, we would like the competent authority to consider prohibiting the serving of alcohol at restaurants while allowing them to offer both curbside and outdoor dining.”
Sands further argued that the weekend lockdowns will be a “major for those considering visiting the island.”
“Our future recovery will certainly be negatively affected by these lockdowns and we believe we can wage war against COVID without going to this extreme as to discourage visitor arrivals in the short and long term. Every visitor counts. We need this to be immediately revisited,” said Sands.
He added: “As it stands, the business community feels that the shutting down of airlift, the closure of restaurants and the weekend lockdowns will cripple a number of small businesses which remain the backbone of our local economy.”