What Manitoba needs to do to avoid a lockdown on businesses

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WINNIPEG -- If Manitoba wants to avoid having businesses closed down under public health orders, it will take work from both the provincial government and residents, according to the Manitoba Chambers of Commerce.

On Monday, the Manitoba government announced strengthened public health orders, which go into effect on Wednesday and last for four weeks. Under this new set of measures, the province is cracking down on gatherings as residents are not allowed to gather indoors or outdoors at private residences, with some exemptions.

However, many businesses, such as restaurants, gyms, personal service businesses, and stores, can stay open with capacity limits.

Chuck Davidson, president and CEO of the Manitoba Chambers of Commerce, said going into Monday’s announcement, many businesses were concerned about the potential of another lockdown.

“I think the big fear that a lot of businesses had heading into yesterday’s announcement was, ‘would we be closing our doors entirely? Would we be having to lay off all of our staff again for the third time?’ I think those were some of the big fears a lot of businesses had.”

Davidson noted that the province has made it clear that businesses are not the main source of transmission, but rather it is people gathering in groups.

He said the province’s new public health orders strike the “right balance,” as closing down businesses won’t solve Manitoba’s problems.

“Addressing where the problem is, in our opinion, was the right thing to do,” he said,

HOW TO AVOID MORE BUSINESS CLOSURES

To avoid having another round of business closures, Davidson said Manitobans need to continue to support local businesses, but there also needs to be additional financial resources from the provincial government.

Davidson noted that the province has taken some measures, including the bridge grant program, but it would be helpful if the province provided additional support.

“Businesses are continuing to follow the rules, but again, these are businesses that have been operating at 25 per cent for not just 175 days, but for virtually 13 months since the beginning of this pandemic, so the fact that they’re continuing to hang in there, I think speaks to the resiliency of the business community,” he said.

Davidson noted that Manitobans also have a role to play in keeping businesses open, saying that everyone needs to follow the rules and ensure that everyone has the opportunity to be vaccinated.

“That’s the one thing that I saw yesterday that I was encouraged about, is the fact that Dr. Roussin said that by the end of May long weekend we should have another 300,000 vaccines in arms, which is absolutely critical in regards to us getting our economy back,” he said.

He noted the province also needs to enforce the public health rules, not only for businesses but for the general public.