Anxiety and uncertainty for P.E.I. businesses affected by COVID-19

It's a stressful time for P.E.I. businesses. COVID-19 has caused many small businesses in the province to temporarily close their doors.

Some restaurants have found creative ways to stay open, by offering delivery or curbside pick up, but the pandemic has caused layoffs and uncertainty for Island business.

"We're holding virtual chats with members," said Russell Compton with the Eastern P.E.I. Chamber of Commerce. 

"We're hearing a lot of very distressed and concerned people."

He said some businesses have suspended and reduced hours and there is a lot of anxiety among owners and operators.

"We're hearing a lot of people worried about the lobster seasons and the crab season and, you know, the spring fishing seasons and all of that. So, there is a lot of anxiety out there," Compton said.

A lot of that anxiety comes from not knowing what to do moving forward, he said. He said he has received many calls from businesses in the area unsure if they should stay open or close.

"Even the farmers, you know, they're going to get their crop in, but where is the market going to be for all of this produce of P.E.I.?" he said.

Health and safety concerns

Gerard Adams of the Greater Charlottetown Area Chamber of Commerce said it has been a rough few weeks for members as well.

"A lot of concern, of course, among our members for the health and safety of their own employees, their clients, their customers," Adams said.

Many businesses in the Charlottetown area have closed their doors or have reduced hours.

Natalia Goodwin/CBC

"We're seeing some silver linings," Adams said.

"People are rising to the challenge and the generosity is showing, the kindness is showing."

Some businesses have moved online to allow orders for products to be placed and many have started to deliver to doorsteps without making contact with customers, Adams said.

Some businesses have put glass between customers and staff to minimize the risk of spreading COVID-19 and increased pay for those that have to continue working, Adams said.

Will staff come back?

Adams said it is important to try not to lay off the small business staff because that staff may not come back later.

"When things get better they will have options and maybe those same employees don't come back to those same employers," he said.

Adams called the 10 per cent wage subsidies being offered by the federal government "inadequate."

"As time goes on we are going to have to continue the ask of the federal government to revisit that number and try to keep more people on payroll," he said.

Usually assistance from the government is offered after an event and not during. The urgency of this situation, the requirement for immediate aid,  is making it hard to predict what is needed to support small business, Adams said.

"We do not know when the end is," he said.

COVID-19: What you need to know

What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

  • Fever.

  • Cough.

  • Tiredness.

But more serious symptoms can develop, including difficulty breathing and pneumonia, which can lead to death.

Health Canada has built a self-assessment tool.

What should I do if I feel sick?

Isolate yourself and call 811. Do not visit an emergency room or urgent care centre to get tested. A health professional at 811 will give you advice and instructions.

How can I protect myself?

  • Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly.

  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.

  • Clean regularly touched surfaces regularly.

More detailed information on the outbreak is available on the federal government's website.

More COVID-19 stories from CBC P.E.I.