Residents “should not be scared of their own shadows” as the island moves into Phase 4, the Mayor of Hamilton urged.
Charles Gosling said businesses in the city — and their employees — were suffering badly from the effects of restrictions related to the pandemic and he urged consumers to venture back into town. His comments came in response to questions about how Hamilton may change as our way of life adjusts with Covid-19 in our midst.
“If we want to wait until the entire world is safe, then that is never going to happen,” Mr Gosling said in an interview.
“The reality is that we are going to have to learn to deal with this and take reasonable risks going forward.”
Past generations had learnt to live with diseases such as polio and smallpox, now virtually eradicated, without bringing their lives to a halt, he said. “Rather than climbing further into our shell, we should be coming out of our shells,” he said.
The presence of Covid-19 may necessitate a change of lifestyle, he said. “But at the same time, seeing that there is risk out there, if we want to continue to have a substantial life, then we need to accept the risks and live accordingly.
“I’m definitely not saying that we should stop social-distancing or rip off our face masks.
“Those are smart things to do and we should continue to do that. But we shouldn’t be scared of our own shadows.”
The city’s retailers, restaurants and personal services businesses have seen their revenues collapse over the last three months.
While they have been allowed to open again, social-distancing measures are reducing trade and staffing needs, meaning many employees are still laid off.
In addition, hundreds of office workers who provide regular foot traffic to the city’s businesses are still working from home.
Mr Gosling said the City of Hamilton was trying to help businesses in any way it could, with a relief package including tax cuts for businesses and landlords, as well as rent relief for the city’s own tenants.
“We’ve been offering a rebate on city taxes for the July-to-December period,” Mr Gosling said. “We hope that what we’re offering will take a couple of straws off the camel’s back.
“It won’t be a huge amount of help, but it might be the equivalent of a few days of operation to help them stay in business.
“We’ve also helped restaurants with al fresco dining options.
“We’re willing to throw away the rulebook right now and do whatever we can to keep Hamilton’s businesses viable.
“We’re trying to do things that will make the city a bit more interesting for residents. As the air arrivals start coming back, hopefully that will make the city more lively.”
Phase 4 of the four-part reopening of the island starts on Wednesday.
Even with workers allowed to return to the office, the impact of social-distancing measures and greater comfort with remote-working technology may lower numbers in the city.
Mr Gosling said he understood the appeal of working from home.
For some, it meant fewer distractions than in the office. However, the drawbacks of working in isolation from colleagues were beginning to become clear.
“Personally speaking, I’m missing the social intercourse I would normally have with fellow workers in the office and the opportunity to knock about ideas,” Mr Gosling said.
“I believe in management by walking about and talking to each other.”
David Burt, the Premier, last Thursday urged consumers to be confident.
Mr Burt said: “I encourage everyone in Bermuda to follow the guidelines and confidently return to your places of work, engage in leisure activities, visit retail establishments, go to lunch and dinner, buy breakfast, patronise small businesses and even feel free to socialise after work.
“Take advantage of the staycation offers available from our hotels, and feel free to make sure you support our local economy.
“We have supported each other in the last three months. Now is the time to continue to support each other as we move towards our ‘new normal’.”
Despite the precarious times for local businesses, Mr Gosling remains hopeful for the future.
He said: “I am basically optimistic. There is short-term pain, but before there was so much that was working and we were starting to get some benefits from what has been going on in the US and the rest of the world.
“There is no reason why this is not going to resurrect itself. We need to live in expectation of a better time.”
• For more information on the City of Hamilton relief offers, visit the City of Hamilton website or send an e-mail email@example.com. Applications for consideration must be submitted by July 24