We commend businesses in the Caribbean that are helping in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic which has created an unprecedented crisis in the region with a short time. No country was prepared for the scale of disruption that this coronavirus would cause and the negative impact on the people’s lives.
To this end, businesses are offering their support to governments, employees and communities. Some major firms and philanthropists have utilised their foundations, promised millions of dollars in relief funding and made donations. Some are transforming the very nature of their businesses to support workers on the front lines.
We highlight some ways that businesses are helping their countries and people in the fight against COVID-19. Some examples include:
Payment of Wages and Extension of Wages to Employees
Many businesses have been affected by the dramatic closure of the tourism industry and the significant contraction in the trading and agricultural sectors across the Caribbean. This was further exacerbated by the sudden shutdown of our society for weeks to contain or delay the spread of the virus. The long-term economic implications of this coronavirus remain relatively unknown. While some businesses have permanently closed, others are struggling and may not survive the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite this, it is commendable that, in these unprecedented and uncertain times, some businesses continue to pay wages and extend benefits to their workers.
Production and Donation of Protective Masks
Surgical and industrial face masks have proven to stop the spread of the virus and experts are now recommending that the general public wear a face mask to slow the spread of COVID-19. Some businesses are also implementing this recommendation in their operations. Massy Supermarket in St. Lucia has stated that no one will enter the store unless he or she is wearing a face mask.
With masks in short supply around the world, factories are transforming their sewing operations to produce face masks. In St. Lucia, The Tribe of Twel in conjunction with Landmark Events, the Sewing Centre and other philanthropists produced and donated 1,500 face masks to the non-clinical staff at the newly opened Owen King European Union (OKEU) Hospital in Castries, St. Lucia. Ram and McRae’s in Guyana is also lending their support to community initiatives engaged in sewing masks made from donated/purchased fabric across the country.
Other companies such as JADA Group in Barbados and Food for the Poor in Jamaica have responded by donating masks to their respective governments.
Donation of Medical Supplies and Equipment
As the number of positive COVID-19 cases rise in the Caribbean, companies have committed funds and/or purchased desperately needed ventilators – a critical life-saving piece of equipment. Despite the shortage and the scramble for ventilators worldwide, the Caribbean islands have received ventilators under the generosity of diplomatic missions, international organisations, companies and philanthropists such as the Barbadian-born pop singer, Rihanna.
Banks and finance companies, such as the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank, CIBC FirstCaribbean, Republic Financial Holdings/Republic Bank and Sagicor Financial Holdings, have donated over US$3.5 million to purchase medical supplies and equipment regionally. St.George’s University in Grenada and the University of Medicine and Health Sciences also responded to the call. Chrieki Maher and his group of companies donated over US$75,000 to hospitals and clinics in St. Lucia during the National Telethon (12 April, 2020) which raised almost US$100,000 to fight COVID-19.
Production of Hand Sanitizers
It is widely accepted that the washing and disinfecting of hands is the first line of defence against COVID-19. While soap and water are preferred, hand sanitizers are popular because it is convenient. This increased demand resulted in a shortage of hand sanitizers even before the first positive COVID-19 case was diagnosed in some countries. To help replenish stocks, several companies have transformed their facilities to produce hand sanitizers.
Internationally, the French perfume maker, LVMH which produces fragrances such as Christian Dior, Givenchy and Guerlain are now making hand sanitizers. Regionally, several distillery companies have also stepped up. Companies such as J.Wray and Nephew in Jamaica, West Indies Distillery in Barbados have donated high-strength alcohol, a key ingredient of hand sanitizers while Blue Light Distillery in Grenada is producing hand sanitizers for sale. Demerara Distillers Limited recently distributed hand sanitizers to several government agencies, health centres and hospitals in Guyana.
Provision of Food and Meals to Frontline Workers
Businesses are donating food items and cooked meals to those in need. Three hotels, Secret Bay, Fort Young and Dive Resort, launched an initiative called ‘Koudmen Kitchen’ which is Creole for ‘helping hand’ to feed frontline workers and healthcare professionals in four locations across Dominica for at least thirty (30) days.
Welfare Support to Families
Recognising that the poor and the vulnerable in our society will face hardships, companies that have made contributions to help them during this crisis. Barbados Light and Power Company Limited are among companies making donations and providing assistance. The utility company recently donated $100,000 to the Welfare Department of the Government of Barbados to support families in need.
The St. Lucia Hotel and Tourism Association, some major hotels and other companies have embarked on a National Feeding Program for the vulnerable to feed 5,000 per day.