With the grace period implemented by the Bank of Guyana and commercial banks for the repayment of loans nearing its deadline, bars and entertainment spots, which have been closed for over eight months due to the COVID-19 pandemic, continue to lobby the National COVID-19 Task Force to allow for reopening.
“It is a ripple effect; these people have been asking for the moratorium, which in its first initial stage, was six months and that is going to end at the end of this year. It means then that businesses now have to find money to repay loans,” President of the Tourism and Hospitality Association (THAG), Mitra Ramkumar said during an interview with the News Room on Monday.
The moratorium on loans was granted for up to six months by the banks in March and subsequently extended to the end of December 2020.
Ramkumar explained that with some of the entities operating as a “small business”, the effects have been harsh, affecting families and employees.
He believes that bars can now reopen safely under strict COVID-19 protocols.
“The focus needs to be on how do we operate in a safe way and we know what the protocols are so we if operate and observe these guidelines then businesses can operate and that is our position,” Ramkumar stated.
The THAG President suggested that Guyana can follow in the footsteps of Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago and Jamaica. These countries have allowed for the reopening of entertainment spots under strict protocols.
The National COVID-19 Task Force in the current gazetted COVID-19 Order gave permission for the reopening of lodges and resorts, however, before any resort or lodge can be reopened, a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) is required after which approval is granted and the business is certified by the Guyana Tourism Authority (GTA).
Ramkumar believes the same model can be applied to bars and entertainment spots.
“Shutting down totally is not sustainable, we can do it and we will do it for a period to ensure we have the numbers under control, but I believe the focus needs to be on how we can live along with this virus. So, the same system we have for the lodges, the same system we can have for bars and other entertainment,” Ramkumar said.
Meanwhile, Ramkumar said they are also lobbying for the Task Force to allow 50% indoor dining.
Ramkumar explained that under Section 6 of essential and other services in the gazette order, 50% indoor dining can be included with tables spaced six feet apart from each other and no more than four persons seated at large tables and are at least three feet apart.
Additionally, when persons come out to dine, if they are not eating or drinking, it is mandatory to wear a face mask. Ramkumar stated that tourism must be looked at as a necessity and not just a luxury.