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As fourth wave builds, firms and staff fear another lockdown

Colin Rego (File photograph)

A businessman said yesterday that he worried about the mental welfare of his staff as the island grappled with a fourth wave of coronavirus infections.

Colin Rego, the founder of the Sargasso home delivery service, said the company was “experiencing higher volumes of orders than normal”.

But he added: “It doesn’t make it any easier for us at all.”

Mr Rego said: “We still have a big team and they have kids and family.”

He pointed out that if children suffered potential exposure to the virus, the whole family was affected – and the wider economy.

Mr Rego said: “It’s a deadly virus, it’s a deadly disease, there’s no doubt.

“But … since when in our history did we ever have ‘oh, you have the flu, well you’re automatically going to be out for two weeks’?”

Mr Rego added: “The biggest challenge is now protecting our team’s mental space and mental energy.

“The biggest challenge is the mental fight that people are fighting, let alone the immediate obstacles that are on the table of the day-to-day folks.”

He highlighted that the knock-on effects of quarantines could include household incomes being limited for more than a month.

Mr Rego, whose team, including delivery drivers, runs to about 300 people, asked: “Who’s paying bills, who’s helping where?”

He added that “quick decisions” made by governments sometimes left people with little time to prepare.

Mr Rego said: “One lockdown – good, people can get by. Second time, it now gets a little challenging.

“Now going to a third or fourth wave – how many businesses are shut down because they can no longer resist?

“How many people are now falling back in bills?

“When we finally get out of this pandemic, what type of debt are we looking at, what type of damage control are we looking at versus people’s health?”

Mr Rego said his company had seen an increase in grocery orders as well as deliveries from restaurants.

He added: “Because we’ve been in a pandemic for the past year, it’s been very consistent.

“Sometimes it kind of slowed down a bit then it’s picking up again because people are being forced not to move.”

Mr Rego said he had prepared for another wave of infections and stricter safety rules for two months.

He predicted that “harder” restrictions were likely to be introduced.

But he said: “I’m very confident in my team … we come together in a whole other way.

“They’re definitely here for things more than just a pay cheque.”

Many businesses have changed their operations amid the most recent increase in coronavirus infections.

Gorham’s hardware store will limit the number of customers inside its Pembroke building.

Henry Durham, the assistant general manager, said yesterday that he expected the cap to be at “about 50”.

A message posted on social media added: “The rear entrance door to the main store will be closed to customer access until further notice.

“The Lumber Shed sales area will remain open as per normal but only two customers will be allowed entry at a time.”

A Clarien Bank spokesman said that the latest outbreak meant services were affected “out of an abundance of caution for both our employees and clients”.

He added that teller services would still operate from 9am to 1pm.

But “limited” numbers of people will be able to get into the branch and social-distancing and masks will be mandatory.

The spokesman said: “Clients should expect longer than normal wait times and all clients are encouraged to use alternative channels such as iBank and iBank mobile internet banking, no-wait deposits and ATMs.

“All clients are also able to use ATMs of other Bermuda banks without charge.”

The news came as power firm Belco declined to comment on claims of a widespread Covid-19 outbreak at the company.

The BermudaReal news website reported last week that more than a dozen Belco staff had tested positive for the coronavirus.

A company spokesman refused to confirm or deny the report.

But he said the firm had taken precautionary measures to protect staff and the public – but that services were not affected.

The spokesman said: “The company will not comment on the health of staff as such matters are private.

“With Bermuda currently experiencing an outbreak of Covid infections, the safety and welfare of our employees at the Liberty Group of Companies is of paramount importance.

“The Liberty Group, which includes Bermuda Electric Light Company Limited, is taking a proactive approach to ensure the health and wellness of staff and our customers.

“The company has implemented all government recommended safety measures including wearing masks, physically distancing, hand hygiene, remote working and working in bubbles where possible and limiting the number of customers in Belco’s customer service areas.

“In addition, the company is offering frequent on-site Covid testing for all staff.

“Despite the challenges due to the Covid and related restrictions, there is no impact on company operations and Belco services are not affected.”

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Published September 14, 2021 at 12:00 pm (Updated September 14, 2021 at 12:00 pm)

As fourth wave builds, firms and staff fear another lockdown

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