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Business leaders mixed reaction to Covid-19 recovery roadmap

Caution: Keith Jensen, president of the Bermuda Employers' Council (File photograph)

The Government’s decision to shut down the island and its economy for the next two months as part of the battle against Covid-19 yesterday got a mixed reaction from business leaders yesterday.

The Bermuda Employers’ Council said that Government’s plan had “laid out the cards on getting the island back on the correct health track”.

Keith Jensen, the BEC president, said he sympathised with Government.

He added that progress made last year had been set back by “irresponsible people”.

Mr Jensen said: “ Unfortunately irresponsible people did not follow what’s expected and well-known.

“They destroyed last year’s progress when we had many days without a death, many days with no one in critical care and many days with no new cases.

“Bermuda built its reputation last year as a safe place to be during the pandemic but now, in 2021, that reputation has to be rebuilt.

“Responsible people in the coming weeks, once again, will have to get the Island out of this new Covid quagmire.”

Mr Jensen was speaking after David Burt, the Premier, said in a Sunday address to the country that tougher restrictions were likely be maintained until the end of June to combat the spread of the coronavirus.

The announcement was made after Government claims in the last four months that herd immunity – where 70 per cent of the population has been vaccinated – would be achieved by the end of May.

Mr Burt laid out a three-stage road map to eradicate the virus on the island.

The measures included strict vaccination regulations on anyone entering Bermuda and the continuation of a night-time curfew.

Mr Jensen said: “The Government announced the principle that travellers who are vaccinated are given some advantages over the non-vaccinated while on the Island.

“That approach should get the community’s support.

“For our vaccinated business and leisure visitors, we hope, in the near term, they will have even more benefits and incentives when entering the island and while they are here.

“The Bermuda Employers’ Council supports that principle.”

“Residents who are vaccinated, in principle, no doubt, look forward to benefits and incentives that they should enjoy, with far less restrictions compared to the unvaccinated.

“We will again be recommending to members to encourage employees to be tested and also to be vaccinated – many employers have done so already.”

Mr Jensen added: “There is no doubt that everyone would like to visit establishments and have services from those who can say that all of their staff have been vaccinated.”

But Mr Jensen predicted the restrictions would affect hospitality workers the most.

He said: “Cashflow will trickle for some and not exist for others.

“The ripple effect decreases Government revenue while it has to pay out more to meet unemployment benefit costs – a double impact in a financially poor year.”

A spokeswoman for the Bermuda Chamber of Commerce, said: “We have received a number of questions with regard to the road map, its impact on employees and their families, the employer's ability to recruit and the ability of businesses to withstand the economic impact of long term restrictions.

“The Chamber, in consultation with various industry partners, has requested more information from Government to help answer these questions and will continue to submit suggestions for moving the island forward and opening the economy.”

The spokeswoman admitted: “We understand that not everyone will agree with the plan. Navigating the pandemic is challenging for businesses.

“We will continue to advocate for a plan that is supportive of a recovery rally and an economic rebound that benefits all.”

She said: “All of us need to do our part to protect friends, family, and loved ones.

“The world is in a race against new variants and we have a short window to slow or halt the spread.

“We'd like to thank all our member companies and their employees who have done their part to keep Bermuda safe."

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Published April 27, 2021 at 5:29 pm (Updated April 27, 2021 at 5:28 pm)

Business leaders mixed reaction to Covid-19 recovery roadmap

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