Some businesses will bear the impacts of additional public health restrictions after the Government of the Northwest Territories announced further COVID-19 limits on gatherings, Wednesday.
From Sept. 24 at 11:59 p.m. to Oct 4, there will be a limit of 10 people allowed at indoor gatherings and 25 for ones held outdoors.
The territorial government recognizes that businesses deemed non-essential will have to cope, Premier Caroline Cochrane said during a Sept. 22 news conference.
“The restrictions are impacting and are going to impact businesses and they’re going to impact residents, and so we’re looking at what we can do to support all,” she said.
Cochrane said there are federal and territorial support programs currently in place, and members of her government are meeting with the NWT Chamber of Commerce and NWT Tourism “to make sure that we have identified all the needs of businesses and that supports that we can implement are appropriate.”
Dr. Kami Kandola, the NWT’s chief public health officer, identified a long list of essential businesses that will remain open and exempt from the rules, including grocery and large retail stores. Other businesses that fall under this label include shelters, dental clinics, pharmacies, gas bars, convenience stores, banks, liquor stores, media outlets and the airport. Still others will include health-care workers, RCMP, supply chain workers and businesses involved in construction of public and Indigenous infrastructure projects.
Private businesses involved in the mineral and petroleum resource industry will remain functioning over the 10-day period, too.
Others, however, like small retail and food and beverage operations will have to follow the indoor gathering guidelines.
Renee Comeau, executive director with the NWT Chamber of Commerce, said her organization and the GNWT are both aware that the restrictions are going to hit certain businesses more than others, particularly food and beverage and accommodations.
”They’re (food and beverage and accommodations) still allowed to be open, but to be honest, especially when you’re dealing with food and beverage, we’re very aware of the fact it’s not going to fit for them,” Comeau said. “So I think right now the best thing that you can do for them is support delivery.”
Comeau said the GNWT’s announcement came very quickly and although the chamber has been critical of the COVID Secretariat in the past, she added that the GNWT public health body has been actively trying to find solutions that will have the least impact on the business community.
Programs available to assist food and beverage establishments include the GNWT Pandemic Relief Extension Program (PREP). The federal government also has its Canadian Recovery Program, which continues to provide income support for workers.
Comeau said the restrictions add to burdens food and beverage businesses are already facing with labour shortages and trying to hire people. Others may have to lay people off.
“They can’t just not pay their staff for 10 days and as great as delivery is, sometimes it actually costs more money than what they’re making because their margins are so low,” she said. “So there is a concern that if they’re not able to do something to keep their staff, it could make it worse.”