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THE WEEKENDS OF LOCKDOWN – How will they affect businesses, stock market, analysts weigh in

Mark Myers – managing director of Restaurants of Jamaica (operator of KFC and Pizza Hut food stores)

“We understand the need to implement these measures and will continue to support the Government however possible during the pandemic. However, quickly adapting to the new measures is a delicate balancing act, the impact of which is crippling our business. Throughout the four decades we have served Jamaica, weekends and holidays have always been our most patronised periods. The weekend lockdowns will therefore have a significant negative impact on the business because these are our most viable business hours. However, our loyal customers are at the heart of everything we do and so we will balance our deep commitment to them while at the same time adhering to Government protocols. We will [therefore] explore additional channels such as increased provisions for delivery, and possibly after hours delivery where permitted in order to meet customer needs.”

Hugh Graham – managing director and CEO of Paramount Trading Ltd/ Opposition spokesperson on Investment, Industry and Commerce.

“The implication of the new measures on the economy and businesses will have dire consequences. Small and medium enterprises have been on the front line bearing the economic ramifications of the pandemic. With these new measures it creates the [possibility] for these enterprises to be wiped out. The Government is not likely to achieve its economic growth target of four per cent that they have projected in the budget as both small and medium enterprises account for at least 70 per cent of major growth in the economy.”

Donovan Wignall – president of the MSME Alliance

“As it stands now we can’t really disagree with what was announced over last weekend. The bigger picture is that something has to be done as you would have seen the [COVID-19] case numbers increasing every day. Commerce will be affected but not as much as it would have been if we had a full lockdown. I would, however, advice people in my sector, those operating in the [food industry], to take advantage of some of the things that were announced, especially the ENDS (E-commerce National Delivery System) platform. All of this is a necessary evil and we have to ride it out. If people follow the protocols and are disciplined in how they conduct themselves, I’m sure we will come out of it a lot sooner.”

Imega Breese McNab – executive director of the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica (PSOJ)

“The three weekends of tighter restrictions will be tough – the measures will no doubt affect the economy in particular our micro, small and medium-size enterprises (MSMEs) and companies that generate a large part of their revenues from Easter sales. The PSOJ, however, understands the need for the tighter restrictions given the strain on our hospitals, the positivity rate and number of deaths. In agreement with our member associations we therefore urge all companies to corporate with the guidelines and to ensure employee and customer compliance with workplace safety protocols.”

William Mahfood – chairman of the Wisynco Group

“The new measures will definitely impact the business, as consumers will have limited time to shop especially over the Easter period. The issues that we are dealing with now would have probably been better suited dealing with them earlier through enforcement and better measures. The reality is at this point there is not much that the Government can do, so I think now what we really have to focus on is vaccination, as this in the short term is going to be the one measure that’s going to have the impact needed to reduce the spread and also improve the health of the nation. I don’t think shutting down is good for the economy, it’s hard enough as people have been going through these types of measures for over a year, a lot of small businesses have been impacted, so I think it is more important now to focus on fast tracking the vaccination roll-out.”

Therese Turner-Jones – IDB country representative, Jamaica

“Weekend lockdowns have worked in other countries so this could help, though more may be needed still, including a full lockdown for a longer period (a week or two). The new restrictions are likely to cause congestions (people crowding to go for shopping), so we urge Jamaicans to take advantage of delivery services where they can. In this regard, we welcome the ENDs service, a much-needed innovation taking advantage of digital transformation and how quickly e-commerce is adapting! We encourage those who can to use these e-services as much as possible – to help reduce traffic, and shopping congestion hours brought on by curfews – which may save lives. In any event, we also need to follow the protocols…mask up, sanitise, practice social distancing and take the vaccinations when our turn comes. In this way Jamaica can achieve herd immunity sooner rather than later, allowing the economy to recover a sense of normalcy – albeit quite a different normal.”

Solomon Sharpe – chief executive officer of Main Event

It is fully understood why the new curfew hours and various other restrictions have been implemented especially after the recent sharp rise in the number of COVID-19 cases. Small and medium sized businesses will be severely impacted and it must be remembered that they form the core, the bedrock of the Jamaican economy. In my perosnal business which is entertainment, events planning and execution and other associated events, we have been feeling not a pinch but a severe blow from the onset of the pandemic. These new measures announced by the government last weeked will not make it an easier for us, in fact, it will make it much worse. The way forward in my view is for greater enforcement of the regulations, the introduction of hefty fines for breaking the rules, more vaccines for Jamaicans to build a strong herd immunity and for discipline to be mantained by all Jamaicans. If we are to come out of our present hole and move the economy forward, all Jamaicans must be on board and vaccines and their easy of availablity along with the necessary discipline will go a long way.

-Compiled by Abbion Robinson and Kellaray Miles