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Businesses have signalled their intention to work with the Government on the safe reopening of the economy.

Members of the Barkeepers and Operators Association of T&T, Caribbean Association of Event Professionals, T&T Alcohol Beverage Alliance, T&T Members Club Association and cinema operators and food sectors came together yesterday in what they called a time of crisis, urging the authorities to allow them to reopen under strict guidelines.

For almost seven months these sectors, which employ an estimated 100,000 workers, have been struggling and while their struggle may find little sympathy with many in the public, the fact is that they provide employment and help facilitate economic growth.

The World Health Organisation argues that lockdowns are harmful to economies, not that we needed anyone to tell us that.

Over the past months, more people have been following COVID protocols, perhaps finally coming to the realisation that if they don’t this virus, which has up to today claimed 97 lives locally and millions more around the globe, will only get worse. Who wants the situation to get worse? Surely not those citizens who have been hardest hit.

The reality is that as long as businesses remain closed, more hardships will be wrought on the population.

Available statistics speak to the impact of COVID-19 not just on the economy. In the past months, we have also seen an increase in child abuse, domestic violence and incidents of mental health issues.

This has not been an easy time for citizens who have been forced to bear the brunt of the initiatives taken. People have been forced to swallow their pride to plead for help. Without jobs, they cannot contribute to the economy through the payment of taxes or NIS.

Business owners are presenting the state with an opportunity to end the suffering of thousands. They say they have been taking the action required to ensure they keep their employees and customers safe.

Too much is at stake here. The Government recognises and has admitted COVID-19 has taken a severe toll on the economic health of this country.

Citizens should fully understand COVID-19’s impact by now and realise they have a responsibility to be responsible if they want life to return to some semblance of normalcy. If businesses are allowed to reopen, a feat achieved by some of our Caribbean neighbours, everyone must know it will not be without risk factors. Those who feel it will be a free for all must feel the full brunt of the law. Reopening must be done responsibly.

But the Ministry of Health must also do some risk management and launch public education campaigns to safely guide the reopening. It must ensure health officers visit businesses to ensure protocols are met before the reopening and must also ensure compliance thereafter.

With just 66 days to Christmas, the only way to get the economy going is for everyone to work together. This is not just about the Government, it’s about all of us. The country’s survival depends on it.