COVID-19 will be part of the new normal for life on Montserrat, says Premier Joseph Farrell and this will require new ways of doing things.
The leader of government in his weekly update to the nation said “the science tells us that this virus will not be going anywhere soon and as a result we must begin to arrange our lives and our businesses to co-exist with the Coronavirus disease.”
This new normal the minister said will mean that business owners must consider how to reorganise their systems in light of the virus. He added that these changes will mean that residents must also adjust their habits as well.
The increase use of Automated Transaction Machines (ATMs) at banks will mean customers must be willing to use the card rather than enter the building. Stores and supermarkets will have to consider online shopping and delivery service as the new now, shift systems to keep numbers low and new seating arrangements for restaurants and cook shops.
Other considerations he said would be how we connect with family and friends in light of social distancing, travel via the ferry and planes and whether online learning and home schooling will remain a part of life on Montserrat.
“Is government in a position to increase its online payment system, providing for less face to face contact? In all of this, how will the culture of our island be affected; will we become anti-social or more friendly as a people? Will we become less caring or has the crisis knitted us closer together? These are all points to consider and questions being asked about what the ‘new normal’ will mean for us; we all must clearly begin to think about this and talk about it,” he said in the statement.
The government has been using a phased approach to reopening the economy as prolonged closure Premier Farrell said could be “disastrous”. “Government is cognizant that not every business on Montserrat can be opened at the same time, as consideration for allowing businesses to open must be managed by the science, and each operation must be assessed to determine the level of risk that persons may be exposed to.
“Each phase of implementation of this guidance strategy for reopening of the economy will therefore be influenced by the situation which exists, at the time at which that particular phase is to be implemented, and on the advice received from the Health professionals.”
The current phase which ends on May 22 has allowed for more businesses which are considered low risk for spreading the virus such as landscaping to be opened. This will be reassessed, Farrell said but there was “no guarantee that these measures will stay in place or that there will be new businesses added to the list.”