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Bars and clubs make plea to PM

Friday 1 May 2020 | Written by Legacy Author | Published in Small World

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The Tonga Bar Club and Restaurant Association has added its weight to a call for the government to ease the six-week-long Covid-19 restrictions.

In an open letter to the Prime Minister, Pohiva Tuioneto‘a, the association outlines the negative impacts of continued restrictions at a time when the Kingdom remains free of Covid-19.

While congratulating the government on its initial response to the Covid-19 pandemic and keeping the Kingdom of Tonga free of the virus – it points out restrictions have now been in place for six weeks – and it’s now been two weeks since a total lockdown ended.

Night time curfews remain in place and night clubs, social clubs, bars and kava clubs remain closed by law.

“The businesses our association represents have suffered like many others during this crisis, with zero revenue coming in but bills still requiring payment. Our members were prepared for some pain, as it was necessary to prevent possible loss of life,” the association has written.

“As your government has kept to its target of keeping Tonga Covid-19 free and while the borders remain closed the restrictions to daily life and liberty are now, we suggest, redundant.

“The continuing restrictions threaten to inflict unnecessary pain, both financial and mental, on the people – and undo all the good work you have done to date in this crisis.”

The letter says continuing the restrictions is diminishing the trust the people have in the government’s actions.

“With the most recent renewals (of the restrictions) additional employees are now losing their jobs. In many cases these staff provide the only income for their families.

“Without jobs how will they now put food on the table and educate their children? The members of our association employ full time over 300 people and they on average support six family members, that is a minimum of 1800 people who are reliant on the lifting of these restrictions without further delay.

“The whole economy of the Kingdom is going to suffer as a result of this pandemic with a decline in remittances and the complete shutdown of the tourism sector, which you are well aware represent the two largest sources of foreign exchange for the Kingdom, it is even more important that those sectors that can contribute be allowed to do so.

“By lifting the restrictions, you will be enabling the bars, restaurants and clubs to again provide employment and generate much needed tax revenue for government finances.

“Continuing with the restrictions will result in a significantly lower collection of excise duty than forecast hurting government finances further.

“Why must we stay closed is the question our members continue to ask? It is not just our members asking but our clients too. To date we have not been given a satisfactory response to that question or even heard it proffered during one of your media conferences.

“Any objection to the lifting of restrictions on bars, clubs and restaurants put forward by the Ministry of Health that they are “not ready” is void while the borders remain closed.

“We urge you to lift these restrictions and use this opportunity to continue to show bold and courageous leadership as you plot the course through these turbulent times,” the association’s letter to the prime minister concludes.