- Some business owners against call for a ‘lock down’
With businesses in Region 10 now recovering from the negative impact resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, there are worrying concerns that the current COVID-19 vaccination measures will further cripple the economy of the region, since citizens are now required to show proof of vaccination against COVID-19 or a negative PCR test, to gain entry at any public building, though privately owned. These include places of business. Region 10 currently has the lowest vaccination rate, as the majority of the residents are hesitant to take the jab.
Residents have used several platforms to expressed their concern over the measures, which they describe as draconian and how it will negatively impact their means to a daily bread; not because they did not take the vaccine, but their clients and customers did not.
Several business places have since sent out memorandums officially informing their staff, clients and is many cases tenants, of the gazzetted order and its enforcement. For example, the management of the Linden Enterprise Network (LEN), which is the business incubator in Linden and has scores of businesses renting spaces, has informed tenants that as of Monday September 13th, no person cannot enter the building without a vaccination card or a negative PCR test. This means that there will be a significant decrease in business transactions for tenants who will still be required to pay rent for their business spaces.
This is the case with several other businesses in Linden that are currently grappling with the increase in cost of living, and economic challenges brought on by the pandemic. Desiree Peters, a business owner told INFO 10 that the new measures have, “raised her pressure” and she is hoping there is a reversal. “Right now this thing raising me pressure because I know sale will go down big time for me, we now trying to raise back from the pandemic and then this will take us many steps backwards, like I don’t know what to do,” Peters said.
Expressing concerns over the matter were community leaders and loggers of the Upper-Berbice district, which relies heavily on the logging sector, following the closure of the bauxite company, RUSAL. Regional Councillor, Keisha Griffith McKane who resides in Ituni (Upper-Berbice District), said that logging is the community’s main source of income and is pleading with the government to reverse the policy and to invest more in providing laptops or tablets and internets hubs for the outlying communities.
McKane added that the community of Ituni is one that is closely knit and loggers refuse to allow the gazzetted order to divide them.
Jean Williams, a logger of Hururu, said Guyana Forestry Commission is currently not transacting business with unvaccinated loggers or those who fail to provide a negative PCR test. “Bearing in mind, we just went through a natural disaster and there is no other means of employment, it will take a great effect on the people,” Williams said
Karil Smith, a health worker and also an entrepreneur of Landern’s Ville, Upper-Berbice River, expressed grave concern for her village which relies heavily on logging.
“We are faced with the flood, RUSAL situation, so it’s a whole lot going on for us. They (Guyana Forestry Commission) refuse to do stomp inspection, so basically, it would cripple the economy,” Smith said.
Smith further related to INFO 10, “I just had to take the vaccine by force, because our salaries are being threatened.”
Meanwhile, private citizens with support from the region’s elected officials, are encouraging residents to ‘shut shop’ as an expression of resistance towards the policy. On Monday there was another ‘lock down’, where businesses on both the Wismar and Mackenzie shore, including those providing essential services, closed their doors in support of the movement.
Pushing the ‘lock down’ initiative is Apostle Nigel London, who claims it is not a political movement but a people’s movement and called on residents to remain resolute to it, until the policy is reversed. The ‘lock down’ initiative however, did not gain support in Georgetown.
Fear of victimization
Some business owners however under anonymity, expressed their disapproval towards the movement but are complying out of fear of victimization. “Remember Linden is a highly political town, you do one different move and you are labled as you ‘support the PPP’, but is not that you want to lock down, but to avoid the whole talking and people watching you different and looking like a sell out or a black sheep, you have to close but to me this hay is just we oppressing we self, nobody but we self ain’t gone feel it,” one fruit vendor said.
Meanwhile, President of the Linden Chamber of Industry Commerce and Development, Victor Fernandes, said he understands the adverse effects the gazzetted order will have on businesses in Linden and is therefore calling on all and sundry to comply by getting vaccinated. Such orders he said is not only placed on Linden but the entire Guyana and in fact, the entire world. “It’s global, if you look all over the world, it is the same thing, it is universal whereby we all would be affected in every facet of our business unless we comply. We have a responsibility as business owners to operate in accordance with the law; it is also a personal responsibility to safeguard ourselves and our loved ones, if we are safe, our family and our associates and those whom we come into contact with will be safe and we would have a community that is safe,” he said. Fernandes urged business owners to follow credible information on the vaccines and to dispel the myths.
Relative to the lock down, Fernandes said that such a move, more so if it is indefinite, will further negatively impact the economy of the region.