Speeding up relaunch strategy would be welcomed by businesses

All need to observe public health guidelines to keep economic ball rolling

Speeding up Alberta’s relaunch strategy will be welcomed by a business community anxious to get back on its feet, says the Red Deer & District Chamber of Commerce.

But keeping the momentum rolling will depend on everyone — not just merchants and other business owners, said chamber CEO Rick More.

“The onus is not just on the business people, it’s totally on all of us to be responsible hygienics-wise and to help stop the spread,” said More on Thursday.

“I don’t think I can stress enough the importance of each of our citizens to do their due diligence and be part of this victory.”

Premier Jason Kenney said the government is looking at moving to the second stage of its relaunch strategy earlier than anticipated because of Alberta’s encouraging infection numbers.

Some reopening measures in the third stage could also be moved into the second stage, which had been set for June 19.

The premier said the government has been consulting with medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw and her staff before making any decision, expected to come early next week.

“I think there is a high level of confidence we can move forward with the Phase 2 of relaunch, and possibly move forward some of the activities initially planned for Phase 3 into Phase 2.”

Kenney also cautioned Albertans to not let down their guard.

“Of course, this is not yet over. We’ll have to continue to be vigilant and continue to maintain common-sense public health measures.”

Kenney urged Albertans to continue to be vigorous about following public health guidelines, such as frequent hand washing.

More said the prospect of speeding up the relaunch plan will provide a dose of much-needed good news and is the right move if the health numbers back it up, as it appears they are.

“I can’t see that being irresponsible if we are all responsible (in following public health guidelines).”

Stage 2 allows more businesses and personal services, such as tanning salons, massage therapists and manicurists, as well as movie theatres and libraries, to reopen with public health restrictions.

Nightclubs, gyms, pools, recreational facilities, concerts and major sporting events are in Stage 3.

Recent surveys have provided a glimpse of the economic toll the pandemic and low oil prices have had on the business community.

A Red Deer chamber survey said 59 per cent of Red Deer-area businesses had laid off employees, and only eight per cent expected to bring all their staffers back.

“Those are scary numbers,” said More, who cautioned that numbers can change quickly, especially if there are positive signs the situation is improving.

However, the community can also expect to see some business casualties.

“I’m really afraid when this is done for the businesses that aren’t going to make it and close. I think it’s going to shock a few people.”

An Alberta Chambers of Commerce survey suggests most businesses will make it. Sixty-one per cent said in May that it’s very likely they will continue operating post-COVID, and another 31 per cent responded that it is somewhat likely.

That is up from the 87 per cent who said in April they are very or somewhat likely to continue operating.

However, most businesses do not expect to see a quick rebound. Eighty per cent said in May that recovery will be slow — up from 74 per cent in April. Only seven per cent expected a speedy recovery in May, down from 11 per cent in April.

Fifty-six per cent of businesses said they feel negative about Alberta’s future.



pcowley@reddeeradvocate.com

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