Monday 26 October, 2020

Phased reopening of business begins in some Caribbean countries

Even though the number of reported COVID-19 cases in the Caribbean is rising, some islands which have not registered a new case in days have begun to relax restrictions.

Barbados, Belize, Antigua and Barbuda and the US Virgin Islands have all begun a phased reopening of businesses.

With only three confirmed cases of COVID-19 to date and no current active cases in Anguilla, restrictions were lifted on April 29.

As of that date, churches, places of worship, all retail stores, hair salons and barber shops, accommodation suppliers, gyms and spas, recreational facilities, official lotteries, restaurants and bars can reopen. 

In Belize, all government departments and all statutory bodies will reopen on Monday, May 4.

Lawyers, accountants, real estate brokers and professional service providers are now on the approved list as well as local manufacturers such as carpenters, building contractors, plumbers, electricians.

Prime Minister Dead Barrow said wholesalers and retailers generally are being freed up, and even call centers can reopen, particularly for training purposes.

“Belize call center services are increasingly in demand as a result of the pandemic, and the centers can take on well over a thousand new hires if training is allowed. Very, very significant for the economy,” he said.

Hotels in Belize can also now reopen to cater to a Belizean clientele. Their restaurants will be limited, though, to providing room service and take-out meals.

“As a result of all this, the general restriction on movement is being lifted to the extent that it will now permit the public to attend at the various government and private businesses for such services as they require, in addition to the purchase of supplies and essential needs. And in one more concession, beauty salons and barbershops can also resume operations, although, only by appointment basis, dealing with one customer at a time. Spas, I am afraid, will still have to remain closed,” Barrow said.

He warned that fines for failure to adhere to physical distancing and other rules are being increased.

Belize has gone 18 days without recording any new positive cases and has 18 recorded cases to date with only three active.

A new, or extended, state of emergency went into effect from May 1.

In an address to the nation on April 29, Barbados’ Prime Minister Mia Mottley announced that from Monday, May 4, the mandatory 24-hour lockdown that began on April 3 will end and there will be phased reopening of government and business operations including beauty supply stores, landscapers, manufacturers, pet services and supplies, educational suppliers and tradesmen. There will also be limited reopening of beaches from 6 am to 9 am daily.

The sale of alcohol will be allowed but there is to be no consumption in public.

Mottley laid out the protocols under which businesses are being allowed to open.

She said anyone with symptoms resembling those of COVID-19 and belongs to a vulnerable group to stay home. She urged all those who are going out in public to wear a mask and for those who are travelling to do so alone in their own vehicles.

Buses are limited to 60 percent capacity with only one person allowed in a row.

Among the other requirements for businesses are temperature checks to be conducted twice-daily on all large worksites, regular handwashing by all employees and staggered work hours as far as possible. Workers are encouraged to walk with their own meals and sit six feet apart while eating.

Barbados has recorded 81 cases of COVID-19 to date with 35 current active cases.

The US Virgin Islands will also relax restrictions on some businesses on May 4 when the country implements the yellow phase of its tiered systems.

Under this phase, recreation facilities, such as gyms, tennis courts and golf courses may reopen as long as they maintain social distancing. Bowling alleys and movie theatres may also reopen if they practice social distancing, but they may not sell food and drink or host parties.

Private offices may reopen, but all employees not critical to in-person services should be encouraged to work from home. Private health care facilities may resume procedures if they follow required safety protocols

Personal services, such as barbers, massage therapists and hair salons, may operate by appointment only and must employ strict hygiene guidelines and frequent sanitisation procedure for all contact services and tools, including hand sanitiser for patrons and face masks for the entire time as possible

For personal services businesses, no more than five customers will be allowed to wait at any given time and no more than 10 people, including employees, allowed in the establishment at a time. Retail stores may not allow more than 10 individuals into the establishment at any time.

Restaurants continue to be restricted to take-out, delivery or drive-thru service and bars remain closed.

Churches may conduct services providing they don’t exceed a capacity of 50 individuals and all, including the pastor, wear face masks.

All patrons are required to wear a face mask when entering a business.

With 24 confirmed cases of COVID-19 to date and 10 current active cases, Antigua and Barbuda’s Cabinet has begun to reopen businesses in the country.

All retail business could ply their trade between 6 am and 6pm but beauty salons, barbershops, spas, bars and night club remain are to remain closed for the time being.

Effective Tuesday, May 5, the beaches will be opened during weekdays to the public for health and wellness purposes. The beaches will remain closed on Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays to avoid crowding.

Public gatherings including, beach entertainment are strictly prohibited therefore, no food, alcohol and music will be allowed on the beach.

The 12-hour curfew and all health protocols, including physical distancing, mandatory wearing of masks remain in place.

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