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Bonavista NL contemplating economic implications of COVID-19

Ocean Choice International fish plant in Bonavista. FILE/THE PACKET
Ocean Choice International fish plant in Bonavista. FILE/THE PACKET - FILE PHOTO
BONAVISTA, N.L. —

JONATHAN PARSONS

THE PACKET

BONAVISTA, N.L. — Like other towns across the province and country, the Town of Bonavista is taking several measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 within its population.

To date there have been no reported cases in the area, but preventative measures are the order of the day.

In an interview today, March 17, Mayor John Norman told The Packet that as of Tuesday morning, all recreation facilities are closed, and they’ve contacted other group as well to ensure their closure.

The closures include The Garrick Theatre, Tip-A-Vista Wellness Foundation with their gym facility, and any other public halls and fraternal organizations in the town.

Norman says they’ve also talked to the ministerial association and churches are also shutting down.

The town hall will remain open for the time being. However, they’re looking at ways for people to limit visits to the building.

He says they already have technology in place to allow people to pay bills online and over the phone.

Norman says the town is looking to make sure everyone can “pay at a distance, if required.”

He said it’s important for citizens to continue to pay their bills so the town doesn’t face a financial domino effect.

On that point, the Mayor said the town is not only focused on the short-term impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the community but on the potential long-term effects for residents.

Norman says he is worried for the town’s two largest private employers, the fishery and the tourism sector.

“Both will be affected,” said Norman. “There’s no way they can’t be.”

The implications for Ocean Choice International (OCI), the owner of the local fish processing plant could be many, he speculates.

“They don’t know where this is going to go because it’s not simply the idea of 300 (employees) being inside a processing plant in close quarters,” says Norman. “That’s one issue, but we also have to look at what’s happening with the world economy and if restaurants around the world are closed, who’s buying crab?”

Norman says they’re also monitoring how this will affect the license-holding harvesters in the local fishery.

“Everyone is going to be struggling, we’re just seeing the beginnings of it.”

With tourism, he says he can’t imagine the impact on the many small businesses like B&Bs and restaurants as long as the severely-limited travel restriction is in place.

“We’re trying to find out more information from the federal and provincial government on what support will be in place because there are going to be a lot of people, here like everywhere, that aren’t going to have an income in the weeks and months to come.”

Norman says while he hopes there won’t be bankruptcies and closures as a result, he expects the economic fallout to be “substantial.”

“It’s a wait-and-see right now. We just need more information. And we’re really hoping that the supports from the federal government flow quickly … It can take weeks and sometimes months when we’ve seen crises before, for money to actually flow to people affected. That’s not going to work this time. We’d be crippled.”

An earlier version of this story indicated council were in contact with OCI regarding the fishery this season. However, there has been no official talks on the upcoming season regarding the Bonavista plant.

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