Industry players in the Ashanti Region have warned of a gloomy outcome for businesses with any attempt by the government to impose a second lockdown as the second wave of COVID-19 infections surges.
The shutting down of major trading hubs and cities – including Kumasi, they concluded, will eventually collapse many businesses; particularly those in the small, medium and micro category.
Already, they said, many of these businesses are yet to recover from the fallout of last year’s lockdown, when business operations were halted in major parts of the country except for essential business operations, following the increase in number of positive COVID-19 cases.
The Regional Manager, Ghana National Chamber of Commerce & Industry (GNCCI), Ms. Jacqueline Bondzie, for instance said members who fall within the SME category depend on their daily proceeds to run their businesses.
Against this background, she noted that the partial lockdown that was placed on the city therefore adversely affected the turnover of many of these businesses. This, according to her, at the moment has made their ‘bouncing back’ very difficult.
However, she acknowledged that “some have been able to bounce back with help from the COVID-19 stimulus relief package” initiated by government and targetting SMEs.
Moreover, she observed that those in the manufacturing sector had to lay-off almost all their workers due to the lockdown, and now even re-engaging the old workforce with lower salaries has become a challenge.
It is in view of these developments that Ms. Bondzie stated that imposing a second lockdown on the city would spell doom for these businesses.
The Regional Manager of the Ghana Chamber of Commerce, who was speaking in an interview with B&FT, said the findings of a study by the Ghana Statistical Service indicates that about 90 percent of businesses could not recover from the lockdown. She therefore insists that another lockdown will be grave for businesses.
The Chamber, she disclosed, is focused on educating its members to observe the COVID-19 preventive protocols put in place by the government and health authorities, since “they cannot stand a second lockdown”.
“They are already faced with the uncertainties of how their sales are going perform daily, given that the market is now fixated on essential items,” she added.
However, she said, the Chamber of Commerce would like education on the preventive protocols to be deepened, while asking that any plans to impose a lockdown should be reconsidered.
She also said the general public, including business operators, need to know the seriousness of the implication from COVID-19 on their livelihood and businesses, and thus urged everyone to be actively involved in preventing spread of the disease.
The Area Manager of the Ghana Employers Association (GEA), Northern Sector, Mr. George Nyarko Aboagye-Attah, said while members in the manufacturing sector had to operate at half capacity, those in the hospitality totally halted work.
He therefore fears that a second lockdown will not only worsen the plight of employers but employees as well. “We are just starting the year after returning from the yuletide, and therefore going on lockdown again will cause a lot of employees to lose their jobs.”
Mr. Aboagye, while hoping a second lockdown will be reconsidered, also appealed for government to enhance the COVID interventions to businesses on the back of high cost of borrowing from banks.
It will be recalled that President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, in his first public update of the year on the measures against spread of COVID-19, hinted of a possible lockdown due to the rising numbers of active cases.
Even though the president admitted the situation could have negative effects on the economy and lives of Ghanaians – just as the previous lockdown did, he maintained it will be the only option to curb the menace.
“We do not want to go back to the days of partial lockdowns which had a negative impact on our economy and our way of life. But should that become necessary – that is, should the number of active cases continue to increase at the current rate – I will have no option but to re-impose the restrictions, because it is better to be safe than to be sorry,” he stated.
These pronouncements have raised the fears of many people, including industry actors – especially given the current alarming number of active cases – that a second lockdown may be inevitable.
As of Feb 9, 2021 the country had recorded 73,003 confirmed COVID-19 cases, with 6,938 being active cases. Out of this total, 675 are new cases while 482 deaths have so far been recorded. Meanwhile, discharged/recoveries stand at 65,583.