Shortened workweek

Shortened workweek

This is a significant day in the early recovery from the corona crisis, as St. Maarten enters Phase 2 of its staggered reopening plan. More businesses are allowed not only to function but receive customers often for the first time since the lockdown started six weeks ago.

The latter depends on their compliance with hygiene, sanitising, social-distancing and personal-protection guidelines, plus in certain cases prior approval by competent authorities. Inspections are to be expected, but most employers probably do not need the threat of enforcement to safeguard as best possible the wellbeing of both their clients and personnel. Besides, why would they risk being closed again now that they can finally try to make some money to pay bills piling up, including salaries?

Compared to the original announcement several categories of economic activities were added (see related story), no doubt to the relief of the entrepreneurs involved. Government also expanded the operating hours that are now from 6:00am to 8:00pm, which especially restaurants so far restricted to delivery, curb-side takeout and drive-thru no doubt appreciate.

On the other hand, businesses will not be allowed to open Saturday again as planned, after all. The reason is to continue the community outreach in search of hidden “pockets” of COVID-19 during the weekend when people are at home.

How important that is was made clear by today’s story about two new confirmed infections on the French side of which one patient had come from the Dutch side, plus two probable cases. The island’s battle with this potentially deadly disease is far from over, making it all the wiser to tread carefully with society’s restored freedom of movement.

Incidentally, stopping companies from opening on Saturday as they were promised may also mean – indirectly – limiting them to a shortened workweek of four days, because Thursday is Ascension Day. According to the country’s labour laws employees must thus be paid extra for working unless this public holiday is cancelled as was done with the April 30 Carnival holiday.