Estevan business community reacts to new restrictions

While the new provincial restrictions announced on Friday may not be the best news, according to Estevan Chamber of Commerce president Jackie Wall, the local business community is pretty happy that the government has heard them and didn't bring in stricter changes.

Wall said that even though Saskatchewan chambers of commerce expressed their concern about the aftereffects of a lockdown on multiple occasions and she personally talked to Estevan MLA Lori Carr last summer about the topic, up until the last moment they weren't sure if their arguments were taken into account.

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"The chamber network here and throughout the province was looking for the government to, of course, move forward for the sake of everyone's health, but also consider the business community and that the businesses are complying with the COVID restrictions and with cleaning requirements," Wall said.

"We were very much encouraging during summer and since then that businesses are able to stay open and we specifically look at isolated restrictions on business activities."

The announcement made last Friday suggests that the interests and well-being of Saskatchewan business communities were a part of the decision on further restrictions, alongside public health.

A collection of chambers of commerce and economic development groups have expressed what they called "strong support" for the targeted approach the Government of Saskatchewan has taken to address rising case counts in localized hotspots, including new mandatory mask requirements for communities with at least 5,000 people.

"While we acknowledge some businesses will be significantly affected by today's announcement, returning to a widespread, large-scale lockdown would be catastrophic to Saskatchewan jobs, Saskatchewan families, and on the immediate survivability of Saskatchewan businesses — even with new and extensive government intervention. The health, societal, and economic harm would have lasting, irreversible impacts,” the letter states.

The organizations are calling on all Saskatchewan residents to follow the restrictions and guidelines set out by public health experts.

"Do your part and be a good neighbour. We also support the proactive enforcement of these critical measures."

As the Christmas season approaches, chambers ask Saskatchewan residents to support local businesses wherever possible. Many of these businesses are barely hanging on, and every little bit counts.

The new restrictions including mandatory masks in all indoor facilities in Estevan took effect Monday, and Wall said that so far the feedback she's heard from Estevan businesses was moderately positive. She said that mandatory masks shouldn't be difficult to implement for anybody.

"We've already seen a lot of local businesses that were requiring people to wear masks, and I know that the majority of residents in Estevan are just putting on their masks when they need to do their shopping in those locations. And this is just a wider spread, it's just something that we all are going to have to take note of moving forward and respect."

Starting Monday, Estevan restaurants and bars are also required to stop selling liquor at 10 p.m. and consumption needed to end at 11 p.m. While it may cause some issues for some places, so far it was announced as a temporary measure. Wall pointed out that the main concern is the potential decrease in the regular demand for restaurants, especially during the traditional time of Christmas parties, a lot of which are now restricted.

Wall suggested that if companies have an opportunity, they should still try to find ways to support local establishments by either having their Christmas meals in the office or providing support differently.

"If you are not doing a Christmas party this year, let's take a pivot, go to a local establishment, buy gift cards and encourage your staff to stay home in the evening and order in a meal on the business," Wall suggested.

She also said local sports organizations were pretty relieved to hear that they didn’t have to shut their doors and are trying to do their best to try to continue operating by following safety measures.

Wall added that to keep the situation at a manageable level and keep enjoying the functioning businesses, they encourage the public and all businesses to adhere to the standards to make sure the community can have a safe Christmas.

"Put your masks on, do what you need to do, but we are coming into the season where people are going to be looking for Christmas gifts, and they are going to be trying to support local businesses, and we did not want to see a shutdown in that," Wall said.

"We want to see that Saskatchewan businesses survive. We want them to be able to continue operating, especially since so many have invested so much time, and money and effort in getting the COVID standards in place," Wall said. "And ultimately we are really trying to protect the population and our frontline healthcare workers. We don't want to have a situation where we have healthcare workers overrun in hospitals.

"And I just want to encourage businesses to keep moving forward. I know this is a really difficult time … Just keep in mind that kindness is what we all really need to take a look at and how we can protect one another, and yet still move our community ahead and support local."

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