By NEIL HARTNELL
Tribune Business Editor
Grand Bahama’s Chamber of Commerce president last warned that more and more businesses are being “handed a death sentence” as the island’s COVID-19 lockdown was extended to August 19.
Greg Laroda told Tribune Business that The Bahamas needed to “find a way to add more companies” to the list of essential businesses and industries permitted to open under the necessary health protocols so that something of an economy is preserved.
Grand Bahama, which was already under a two-week lockdown until today to counter the latest COVID-19 surge, saw this extended by a further 12 days to August 19 to bring it into line with that subsequently imposed on the rest of The Bahamas.
“I guess it’s almost beyond speculation in terms of how it’s going to impact businesses,” Mr Laroda told this newspaper. “We just have to wait and see what the fall-out is. I’m sure that for a lot of businesses it will be devastating. Again, we understand from a safety standpoint what the Government is trying to accomplish but we cannot be locked down for ever.....
“The businesses we say are non-essential, the longer this goes on, you are really handing them a death sentence. We need to find a way to add more businesses to the essential list.”
The GB Chamber president questioned whether the latest lockdown would fully eliminate the current COVID-19 wave, as “you cannot shut everything down” and there were multiple opportunities for persons to come into contact with asymptomatic virus carriers at food stores, pharmacies, water depots and gas stations.
He also suggested that the reduced shopping days and hours were again leading to longer store queues, further increasing the risk of COVID-19’s ‘community spread’. Mr Laroda also called on the Government to extend the lockdown by a week at a time, so that it could assess its effectiveness, rather than going the full duration in one go.
He spoke out after Senator Kwasi Thompson, minister of state for Grand Bahama, confirmed the island’s two-week lockdown had been extended for a further 12 days in a bid to slow and control community spread of the pandemic.
Three hundred and thirty-six confirmed cases were recorded for Grand Bahama as of Wednesday, with the island now falling under the same lockdown order as the rest of the country.
“The Grand Bahama Food Task Force will continue to provide food for those residents in need during the extended lockdown,” said Mr Thompson. “To date, we have distributed 5,366 vouchers assisting thousands of Grand Bahamians. Today, we have distributed 1,202 vouchers to Grand Bahamians.”