Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell has announced an expansion of business activities in Grenada with full effect from today (Monday) as part of government’s plans to fully re-open the island’s economy which is reeling under the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
In an address to the nation Sunday night, the Prime Minister said that every day from hereon be a designated business day for those enterprises already granted permission to operate and for those resuming work this week.
He told Grenadians that all approved businesses will operate within the scope of their respective pre-COVID schedules in the allotted time from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m but that the daily curfew hours still remain in place from 7:00 p.m. to 5:00 a.m.
According to the Grenadian leader, government anticipates “an uptick in economic activity with the resumption of work in the construction industry this week”.
But the Prime Minister noted that certain things will have to be put in place first before construction workers can pick back up their tools.
He said: “Health and safety guidelines have been created and the contractor for each project must seek and be granted permission from the (Cabinet-approved) construction sub-committee before actual work resumes”.
Prime Minister Mitchell identified the specific businesses that will be allowed to re-open their doors from Monday for the first time since the shutdown – real estate services, laundromats, landscapers and gardeners, flower shops, consumer credit stores and companies offering payday loans.
The address dropped hints that government is still to work out the critical issue of public transportation to take workers to their place of employment.
The Prime Minister noted that with many workers dependent on public transportation, Government is working with stakeholders to develop appropriate social distancing and hygienic measures that will guide the resumption of this service and that an official announcement will be made in the coming days on the issue.
He announced that limited ferry services have also been approved for reopening this week, between mainland Grenada and the two sister islands of Carriacou and Petite Martinique.
“We will continue to work closely with the service providers to ensure that the operational guidelines are adhered to,” he said.
Dr. Mitchell also addressed the possible re-opening of the Maurice Bishop International Airport (MBIA) early next month to give a boot to the critical tourism industry which is now the Number One provider of employment for Grenadians.
He said: “As many await the re-opening of our external borders, I hasten to say that while this is imminent, we are not there yet. Borders were closed to prevent the spread of the virus and to save lives, and for now, we must maintain that status quo. At the most recent meetings of CARICOM and OECS leaders, we collectively agreed to start gradually relaxing the restrictions for travel, as the pandemic in the region has been largely contained.
“Governments, airlines and hotels are now finalising the details of this phased re-opening. Assuming that the requisite protocols are in place, we expect to open our borders in the first week of June. I assure you, fellow Grenadians, we will not move unless we are satisfied that adequate health and safety guidelines are in place.
The Sandals-La Source Resort has already announced that it will be re-opening its all-inclusive hotel for guests in June.
Prime Minister Mitchell also addressed the sensitive issue of those Grenadian cruise ship workers who are stranded overseas and cannot find their way home.
“To those who remain stranded aboard ships and in other countries, we ask you to understand that in dealing with this health crisis, the actions of Government must be guided by the capacity of our healthcare system to cope with any potential outbreak of the disease,” he said.
“We are open to receive stranded Grenadians, as long as they have the means to find their way home, and bearing in mind, our limited capacity to provide state quarantine facilities. All persons allowed to come in, will be placed in mandatory quarantine at a designated facility for at least two weeks,” he added.
Prime Minister Mitchell made passing remarks about Saturday night’s incident in which a group of returning crew ship workers staged an open rebellion against the conditions under which they were placed in quarantine at the Grand Anse campus of St. George’s University (SGU).
One of the dissenters expressed concerns with the facility which she claimed involved her own payment of EC$9500.00 for the 14-day stay as part of the mandatory quarantine protocol.
The Prime Minister said that government was totally responsible for the entire cost of almost EC$200,000.00 for the upkeep of the crew ship workers as the cruise lines have backed away from earlier promises made to government to help fund the quarantine programme.
Dr. Mitchell did not announce any new initiative by government to boost the agriculture sector but hinted that foreign investors will continue to play a critical role in the island’s development.
He spoke of foreign businessmen still showing interest in investing in Grenada.
The Prime Minister said: “We are also buoyed by the fact that in the midst of this crisis, investor confidence remains high. The recent acquisition of Port Louis and Mount Cinnamon, with plans to add up to 500 new hotel rooms, in an investment worth more than US$350 million, speaks volumes for the recovery potential of our economy. It is important to note that no concessions will be given until the developer is ready to begin construction of the four hotels”.
He did not identify the investors.
On agriculture, the speech was limited to a mere announcement that Cabinet has “approved, in principle, price support payments for nutmeg farmers” but said that “the terms and conditions are being finalised with the Grenada Cooperative Nutmeg Association (GCNA).
He added that government is waiting for an update from the Grenada Cocoa Association (GCA) “as to what assistance, if any, is required for those farmers”.
Prime Minister Mitchell sought to raise the hopes of Grenadians that the island has now passed the worst with COVID-19 and was looking forward to a much brighter day.
He said that this unprecedented challenge brought on by the virus has provided “opportunities for innovation and strategic thinking” to restart the economy.
“It calls for all of us to have more patience, love and tolerance in dealing with each other,” he added.