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COVID-19 blues: Businesses on red alert

BY: Maxwell Akalaare Adombila

Businesses have started managing their expectations on a strong rebound in economic activities in the coming days after a spike in COVID-19 cases lately made the imposition of restrictions a critical option on the government’s cards.

With the harsh memories from last year’s three weeks partial lockdown still fresh in their minds, hotels, traders and manufacturers fear that a continuous rise in infections could force President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo to carry through his threat of locking down some commercial cities.

The respective leadership of the Ghana Hotels Association (GHA), the Ghana Union of Traders Association (GUTA) and the Association of Ghana Industries (AGI) told the Graphic Business in separate interviews that although such an action would be necessary to contain the rise in infections, it risked dashing their hopes of brisk business this year after a dull year in 2020.

Waning confidence

“After the election, we came out with great optimism but I think that is now waning,” the President of the Ghana Union of Traders Association (GUTA), Dr Joseph Obeng, said on January 18.

“Because COVID-19 numbers were down and the Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) had just started, we felt that now was the time to recoup all our losses in 2020 but the COVID-19 figures coming out and the President’s warning are worrying,” he said.

Container prices

Dr Obeng said the challenge facing the importer community had been worsened by the rise in the cost of container prices.

He said a 40-footer container that cost $3,000 to rent for import now cost about $13,000 in the world market.

New variant

On January 17, President Akufo-Addo said the country’s infection rate had shot up in recent times after many let their guards down on the COVID-19 protocols.

He said treatment centres had moved from zero patients to being full with patients, while those requiring hospitalisation and critical care had risen from 18 a week ago to 120. He said about 33 people were currently in the Intensive Care Units (ICUs) compared to a week ago when those units were empty.

Hotel occupancy

The President of the GHA, Dr Edward Ackah-Nyamike, said such news were a damper on an industry that suffered extreme losses in the heat of the pandemic last year.

He explained that hotel occupancy, which crashed in March through to July last year, picked up “quite well” in the last quarter of last year following the rejuvenation in social activities on the back of a reduction in infection numbers, the campaigning towards the December 7 general election and the festive season.