No one denies that we needed immediate and determined action to turn the tide of COVID sweeping through the territories around. However, this 10-day lock down seems to target the private sector most of all at a time when it was trying so hard to get back on its feet.
If there was ever a time for a government to think outside the box – this was it. We needed the government to look for a creative alternative to a lock down such as vaccine passports which was all but ignored even though it has proven itself in larger urban centres. Instead, the territorial government ordered small and medium sized businesses who survived the last lockdown to do it all over again. No more than 10 guests at any one time.
This could be deadly for those who barely pulled through the first three waves.
Some larger businesses – mostly lounges and restaurants — just shut down. It wasn’t worth it for them to stay open for a handful of customers. They sent their workers home again and locked the doors or offered take out. For those employees, it means no pay cheques and that could mean nothing for the mortgage or rent or even food. Many government benefits available the first time around no longer exist.
Smaller stores have stayed open but suffered the loss in sales that comes from COVID fears.
We needed to do something probably a couple weeks ago but it would have made more sense to introduce vaccine passports or some kind of facsimile allowing businesses to retain more of their customer base. They needed a chance. Unfortunately, this government chose the status quo of an almost full-scale lockdown which could be the nail in the coffin of at least a few small scale enterprises.
This lockdown does not hurt government workers who need to again work from home while receiving regular paychecks and retirement packages a few years down the road. But this is deadly for some private sector workers and businesses who are trying to work toward that too. What we learned from it choosing the status quo was that those who are making these decisions are unaware of, or compassionate toward, people who are not in the public sector. In fact, one cabinet member suggested that the best way to support them was ordering take out.
This seems like a curious suggestion considering that so many affected by this lockdown will have trouble making mortgage or rental payments or buying food at all let alone ordering take out. Choosing the same response will only further the divide between government and private sector workers who have already paid a high price and of course this says little about the no income group which is now totally out of the mix. All of This is fuel for the fire.
Some have suggested that this is a right-wing opinion but it is not. Many of those who have not had salaries or nominal government subsidies for more than 18 months have either left the territories or are saddled with a debt load that those receiving more stable pay cheques know little about. They are suffering.
There is no doubt that we have all experienced some form of mental duress during the pandemic and we do deeply appreciate the ongoing efforts of essential workers such as nurses, doctors, health care professionals and teachers. We are grateful. However, it has not been easy for private sector personnel who relied on nominal government subsidies in a part of the country where shelter, heating and food costs can be extreme. That is real suffering, too.
COVID has not just been about a threat to our physical health; it has also shaken the foundations of our economic and mental health and it is the responsibility of the territorial government to address that, too. Too many have fallen through the cracks because policy makers could not come up with innovative ways to move them through these troubling times. Let’s remember that the private sector also provides valuable, diversified services which contribute greatly to the local character. They have been nominally serviced for the last many months yet we are nothing without them.
Government is supposed to be by the people, for all the people. Not just for government workers and a spattering of others here and there. We are indeed appreciative for those government employees who have stepped up to help at the isolation centres and other areas of special demand. At the same time, those who set policy need to be more considerate of the entire body politic. Private sector workers and businesses are Northern residents and voters, too.
We are supposed to be in this together. But sadly, some are paying a higher price. Let’s hope that if the current situation continues, the territorial government will consider more creative solutions to help those not on its payroll. They, too, need our support.