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Yk businesses want 'accountability' on end to Covid-19 limits

Businesses need a clear plan from the GNWT so they can prepare to adapt to the possible easing of Covid-19 restrictions in the coming months, said the Yellowknife Chamber of Commerce Wednesday. NNSL photo

Businesses need clarity on what they should do if Covid-19 restrictions ease up in the next few months, the Yellowknife Chamber of Commerce said Wednesday.

In a letter sent to Premier Caroline Cochrane, Chamber president Tim Syer and executive director Deneen Everett ask for criteria and metrics businesses will need for planning their operations in the coming months.

“The current approach of case-by-case exemptions and vague announcements that do not provide clarity or certainty for businesses is inefficient and lacks transparency and accountability,” they said. “We’re asking the GNWT to establish specific, measurable, standards so businesses have greater certainty for operational planning purposes.”

Their request comes as 19,685 first doses of the vaccine and 12,389 second doses have been administered across the NWT, as of March 19, according to GNWT data.

In addition, chief public health officer (CPHO) Dr. Kami Kandola said on March 10 that more restrictions could be eased by late April.

“Businesses need time to re-hire and train staff to accommodate increased capacity, they need to make investments in inventory, supplies and equipment repairs,” the Chamber leaders said. “We want to avoid a situation where there’s a surprise announcement that restrictions are eased, and businesses are left scrambling to adapt.”

They further asked for guidelines on conditions needed for removing capacity restrictions on outdoor gatherings; increasing indoor capacity limits; establishing travel bubbles with other responsible Canadian jurisdictions; and welcoming tourists back into the NWT through the elimination of self-isolation requirements.

Bullock's Bistro owner Jo-Ann Martin shares the Chamber's view on restrictions, and on Tuesday told NNSL Media that the lack of a government plan on re-emerging is “daunting.”

“(It) bothers me as a business owner. My personal business opinion is that if we’re going to have 75 per cent of the population vaccinated by the end of April … the GNWT should be saying, ‘We will do this.’ But there’s nothing like that yet.”

'Recovery not a straight line', says Cochrane

In a statement on Thursday, Cochrane said the GNWT understands the strain that public health measures have had on businesses is doing what it can to help out.

"We recognize the NWT’s business community has been adaptive and resilient during the pandemic response and have played a critical role in keeping our residents and communities safe," she said.

Although the Emerging Wisely plan is the government's guide to to a measured lifting of restrictions on residents, businesses and communities, that lifting was "never going to be a straight line" and the GNWT must also respond to new, unanticipated issues that have occurred, such as Covid-19 variants.

Cochrane said the GNWT still needs to know how effective vaccines are with viral transmission and when the vaccine will be approved to be administered to everyone, since some restrictions must be maintained to protect children under 18 and other residents who can't receive the vaccine for various reasons.

It also still needs to learn how well vaccines can protect against variants like the ones from the U.K, South Africa, Brazil, California and New York.

"The GNWT will continue to work with the Chamber and its members to assist them when the updated plan is released," Cochrane said. "The economic and social recovery of our territory is an important priority and the GNWT is working hard to give every resident and business the best opportunity for success and ensure businesses have the information they need in a quick and effective manner."