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GFSB calls for clear public health guidance for businesses

The Gibraltar Federation of Small Businesses has called on the Gibraltar Government to provide clear public health guidance to reduce uncertainty for businesses and enable them to plan against the backdrop of rising Covid-19 cases in the community.

It was reacting after the government recently cancelled all large events and called for bars, restaurants and nightclubs to “be cautious” in the events they organised, and to “strictly control numbers and to ensure that clients are vaccinated AND have a negative COVID-19 test result.”

Those measures effectively put an end to large events “for the foreseeable future”, the GFSB said.

But they were announced just days after the Government was giving permission to events to operate at full capacity.

That inconsistency has created “considerable uncertainty” in the food and beverage sector as to what measures they should now be implementing, the federation added.

“It is not the role of the GFSB to give public health advice and we recognise the fact that Covid cases are rising as are hospitalisations,” the GFSB said in a statement.

“The federation is, however, concerned that policies that fundamentally affect the ability of an entire sector to operate can so rapidly go from ‘full capacity’ to ‘nothing at all’.”

“It is also concerned that bars, restaurants and private venues are being called on to police much stricter criteria for entry, whilst at the same time being given no practical guidance as to what ‘being cautious’ means in practice or how and when it should be implemented.”

“The business community is facing amongst the most difficult operating conditions of recent times with the combined challenges of Brexit uncertainty, the pandemic and increased taxes and social insurance announced in the recent budget.”

“It is quite clear that the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic is not over and that a return to business as usual may yet be many weeks, if not months away.”

“In those circumstances it is absolutely vital that the Government work with businesses to reduce uncertainty, enabling them to plan as much as is reasonably possible.”

The GFSB has written to the Minister for Business and the Minister for Civil Contingencies with a four-point action list.

It called on the government to:

- Conduct meaningful engagement with the business community before rolling out any further public health restrictions;

- Work with the business community to establish sector specific measures to be implemented as and when required;

- Establish key public health indicators that set out the basis for implementation and easing of restrictions;

- Publish that information in a “Lock / Unlock the Rock” document similar to that which was published in 2020.

“The GFSB members are acutely aware of the personal tragedies and deaths that Covid has already caused in our community,” the statement added.

“We also recognise as much as any other sector, the challenges that the Covid-19 pandemic brings.”

“It is our members who have seen their businesses closed, their incomes collapse and their plans in tatters.”

“We recognise the hard work being done by Government, public authorities and agencies to control this pandemic.”

“However, as it becomes clear that those challenges may remain for many weeks and months, restrictions must be implemented in as predictable and specific a manner as possible and in accordance with established criteria.”

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