Categories
Economy

PRESS DIGEST- Financial Times – April 1

March 31 (Reuters) – The following are the top stories in the Financial Times. Reuters has not verified these stories and does not vouch for their accuracy.

Headlines

– Domino’s Pizza appoints former Costa Coffee boss as chief on.ft.com/2UOUW48

– Carnival looks to raise $6bn to stay afloat on.ft.com/2xJasGz

– Regulator clears Flutter’s £10bn tie-up with Stars Group on.ft.com/3dMQZp1

Overview

– Domino’s Pizza UK has appointed the former head of Costa Coffee, Dominic Paul, as its chief executive after investors called for David Wild to step down as chief due to his perceived failure to placate franchisees.

– Carnival Corp is looking to raise $6 billion to stay afloat, which includes $3 billion of three-year bonds secured on part of its fleet of cruise ships, $1.75 billion of bonds that can convert into shares and $1.25bn in newly issued stock, as the company reels from the impact of coronavirus on its business.

– UK’s Competition and Market Authority has approved Flutter Entertainment’s £10 billion pound ($12.42 billion) merger with Stars Group. ($1 = 0.8053 pounds) (Compiled by Bengaluru newsroom)

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Economy

GLOBAL MARKETS-Stocks under pressure after biggest quarterly drop since 2008

* S&P 500 futures slide in Asia, Nikkei also falls

* U.S. coronavirus deaths top 700 in single day

* Pandemic threatens sharp global slowdown

* Yen gains after Federal Reserves new measures

By Herbert Lash

NEW YORK, March 31 (Reuters) – Asian shares faced another leg lower on Wednesday as the coronavirus sharply slows global growth, leading a gauge of world stocks to post its biggest quarterly decline in more than a decade and oil prices to trade near lows last seen in 2002.

Shares on Wall Street tumbled on Tuesday, with the Dow registering its biggest quarterly fall since 1987 and the S&P 500 its steepest quarterly drop since a decade ago on growing evidence of the massive downturn the pandemic will incur.

E-Mini futures for the S&P 500 traded 1% lower in after-hours trade, while Asian futures suggested the rout would continue.

FTSE China A50 futures in Singapore were down 0.85% and Japan’s Nikkei fell 1.86% in early trade.

The first-quarter decline was the biggest on record for the S&P 500 as consumers hunkered down at home, leading businesses to announce massive staff furloughs and to shut temporarily.

U.S. economic activity is likely to be “very bad” and the unemployment rate could rise above 10% because of efforts to slow the spread of the coronavirus, Cleveland Federal Reserve Bank President Loretta Mester told CNBC.

The United States marked 700 deaths in a single day from COVID-19 for the first time on Tuesday, lifting total U.S. fatalities from the disease to more than 3,700.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan gained 0.35% in early trade.

MSCI’s gauge of stocks across the globe shed 0.48% following modest gains in Europe. The index fell nearly 22% for the quarter.

Bucking the broader decline, Australian shares opened higher as a slowdown in new coronavirus cases brightened investor sentiment while rising iron ore prices gave miners a lift.

Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 index rose 1.59% after the benchmark fell 2% on Tuesday.

The number of coronavirus infections globally headed toward 800,000. Deutsche Bank analysts noted, however, that for two consecutive days the global growth in new cases was below 10%, having exceeded that rate for most of the past two weeks.

Health officials were much more cautious. A World Health Organization official warned that even in the Asia-Pacific region, the epidemic was “far from over.”

The dollar slid against a basket of currencies, pressured by the latest Federal Reserve measures to ensure sufficient liquidity in the global financial system.

The Fed is now allowing foreign central banks to exchange their holdings of U.S. Treasury securities for overnight dollar loans.

The dollar index fell 0.275% while the Japanese yen strengthened 0.12% versus the greenback at 107.44 per dollar.

Government bond yields held steady as investors remained cautious about buying riskier assets.

The benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasury note rose 15/32 in price to yield 0.6538%.

Crude oil benchmarks ended a volatile quarter with their biggest losses in history, with both U.S. and Brent futures hammered throughout March due to the pandemic and the eruption of the Saudi-Russia price war.

Global fuel demand has been sharply cut by travel restrictions due to the coronavirus. Forecasters at major merchants and banks see demand slumping by 20% to 30% in April, and for weak consumption to linger for months.

Crude futures ended the quarter down nearly 70% after record losses in March.

U.S. crude fell 31 cents to $20.17 a barrel and May Brent crude futures ended 2 cents lower at $22.74 a barrel ahead of expiration.

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World News

Paris Club creditors agree to cancel $1.4 billion of Somali debt

WASHINGTON/PARIS (Reuters) – The Paris Club of creditor nations agreed on Tuesday to restructure Somalia’s debt, including immediately canceling $1.4 billion owed by the impoverished Horn of Africa country.

Three decades of conflict have left Somalia all but cut off from the global financial system and relief from its debt is expected to open the way for new sources of financing for the country.

The decision, first reported by Reuters, cancels 67% of the debts owed to Paris Club creditors by Somalia. It came after more than nine hours of discussions by videoconference.

Somali Finance Minister Abdirahman Beileh called the decision a big step forward for his country, which is also grappling with the coronavirus outbreak and a recent desert locust swarm.

“We had very productive discussions with the Paris Club and we welcome their support in relieving Somalia of a substantial amount of its debt to them,” Beileh told Reuters.

He said the Somali government would hold separate bilateral discussions with the creditors to finalize the process. He said his government would continue the economic reforms it had undertaken over the past eight years to enable the debt relief.

An official with the International Monetary Fund said several creditors were expected to grant Somalia additional debt relief on a bilateral basis, and it could eventually see 100% debt cancellation deals with some countries after it completes additional steps under the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) Initiative in about three years.

The IMF and the World Bank said last week that Somalia had taken the necessary steps here to begin receiving debt relief.

Several of Somalia’s Paris Club creditors, including the United States, the UK and Norway, as well as the World Bank and the IMF, urged Paris Club members to provide “generous” debt relief to Somalia during the negotiations on Tuesday, said one source familiar with the discussions.

Somalia is the 37th country to qualify for debt relief under the HIPC process.

In time, debt relief will help Somalia reduce its external debt to $557 million in net present value terms from $5.2 billion at the end of 2018, the IMF and the World Bank said.

The IMF last week also approved a new three-year $395 million financing arrangement for Somalia under its Extended Credit Facility (ECF) and Extended Fund Facility (EFF).

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Business

Coronavirus: Venture capital firms help laid-off start-up employees find new jobs

SINGAPORE – Venture capital (VC) firms across South-east Asia have launched a ‘community-led’ initiative to help start-up employees laid off due to the economic impact of coronavirus outbreak to find new opportunities.

The anchor of the initiative is a public database of affected employees who can opt to have their names, functions and contact details included in it. The database will be publicised on the social media platforms of the participating VC firms.

They include Saison Capital, FutureLabs, Jungle Ventures, Alpha JWC, Convergence Ventures, Patamar Capital, Rainmaking, TRIVE Ventures and Tribe Accelerator.

Interested applicants with at least one year of working experience can apply to have their names included on the database via a form found at www.SEAcosystem.com. Their application will be verified by one of the supporting VC firms before being listed on the database.

The database will also include a list of companies that are still hiring in the region.

The initiative is spearheaded by Chia Jeng Yang, principal at Saison Capital; Simin Liu, an analyst at FutureLabs Ventures; and Rachael De Foe, a freelance communications consultant.

They were inspired by a similar effort started by VC firms in the United States.

Said Joachim Vandaele, partner at FutureLabs Ventures: “Top talent is what makes or breaks ventures, so as an ecosystem, we have a collective interest and responsibility to keep the talent in South-east Asia. Customers come and go, financial capital flows in and out but human capital is what we need to hold onto.”

On Monday (March 30), the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) said that it expects increasing job losses and fewer pay rises this year, as the economy heads into a deep recession.

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World News

Italy shows signs that coronavirus pandemic is slowing down with hopeful new figures

In Italy, Europe’s hardest-hit nation, with more recorded deaths than any other nation, there are signs that coronavirus might be loosening its grip. Now, many are asking whether COVID-19 has finally peaked.

The peak of a pandemic in a country is when the number of new infections in a single day reaches its highest point.

Cases now registered in Italy will reflect exposure to the virus around two weeks ago, according to health chiefs.

The increase in new confirmed cases in Italy is at its lowest since the outbreak began – four percent.

This is promising, as it is half as much as four days ago, and a further four times less than two weeks ago.

And, the number of those who have recovered from the virus has reached its highest ever level.

On Monday, this figure stood at 1,590.

In Lombardy – regarded as the worst hit region, in the north of the country – the amount of people testing positive for the virus has dropped sharply.

It fell from 25,392 on Sunday to 25,006 on Monday, according to Johns Hopkins University.

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Despite a move in the right direction, the positive cases rebounded on Tuesday by around 120 people.

Experts were also quick to point out that these figures are only the number of confirmed cases, rather than the real amount of people infected.

The true amount will never be known, with many carrying the virus unknowingly to themselves or the authorities.

The decline in the rise of new infections could also be in part down to the reduced number of tests being administered in the past few days.

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[ANALYSIS] 

The number of people who died from the virus after testing positive in Italy on Sunday was the lowest daily rise in deaths since Wednesday last week.

Yet, coronavirus proved its uncanny ability to thwart our control, with it bouncing back on Monday and Tuesday, rising by 812, according to the the Civil Protection Agency said, reversing two days of decline.

Last week, the head of Italy’s national health institute said the country had not yet reached its peak.

But, Silvio Brusaferro said there were “signs of a slowdown” in the number of people becoming infected.

This led many to suggest the peak might be closer than what was previously thought.

Meanwhile, Mike Ryan, head of health emergencies at the World Health Organisation (WHO), said there was “hope” that Italy is soon approaching its peak.

This was, he said, as lockdown measures began to prove their worth.

He warned that it was difficult to known when the peak has been reached, however, using Wuhan as an example of how the peak went up and down before it was actually reached.

Mr Ryan also emphasised the importance of not just trying to get past the peak, but testing and isolating cases.

He said: “The question is how do you go down, and going down isn’t just about a lockdown and let go.

“To get down from the numbers, not just stabilise, requires a redoubling of public health efforts to push down.”

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Politics

Coronavirus: More firms now see value of digitalisation, says Iswaran

More businesses are seeing the value of increased digitalisation in the light of the Covid-19 pandemic, Minister for Communications and Information S. Iswaran said yesterday.

While the Government has long encouraged companies to intensify the use of digital technology in their processes, the coronavirus has brought into stark relief its relevance and merits at a time when businesses have had to act to minimise disruptions in the face of the virus, he said in an interview on Money FM 89.3.

“Right now, businesses see the value proposition – whether it is working remotely (or) transacting with business partners around the world,” he told co-hosts Elliot Danker and Ryan Huang.

The current situation has also helped employees to understand why digital technologies are both relevant and useful, he added.

Digital technology has also helped the Government manage the crisis, he said, citing the Gov.sg WhatsApp service that has given Singaporeans “reliable information in a timely manner (that) also enables them to navigate all the other information they are receiving on a daily basis”.

“We think these and many other digital sources of information and ways of communicating with our broader population (are a) key part of not just battling the crisis, but also preparing ourselves for the next phase of digital evolution in Singapore’s economy,” he said.

A myth that needs dispelling, he said, is that digitalisation applies only to some, when such technologies cut across every sector. Even traditional businesses in Kampong Glam and Little India are using digital technologies, whether for payments or to interact with their logistics providers, he noted.

Both businesses and workers need to view digitalisation as a journey, not something where one needs to “jump into the deep end in one fell swoop”.

“What you can do is work on it (by) taking incremental steps, but have an overall strategy that takes you to the end point in terms of the kind of capabilities you need.”

Asked about the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (Pofma), which took effect last October, he said Covid-19 has vindicated what the Government said when it introduced the anti-fake news legislation.

It had argued that people today get information from a variety of digital sources, information from digital sources can be very viral and fake information can cause dire consequences.

Pofma “has actually proven to be very effective in the course of Covid-19, although it is very, very unfortunate that people still persist in pervading falsehoods even in these very trying times, and it causes fear and panic in our population”, he said. “So, we have to move swiftly and decisively to deal with such fake news or falsehoods.”

He pointed out that the Government’s promptness in quashing early instances of fake news – such as debunking rumours in January of Woodlands MRT station being closed because of a suspected Covid-19 case – has “had a salutary effect”. “Even in private messaging services… what I find is the instinct now is for people to ask the question, ‘Is this fake? Is this real?’ ” Mr Iswaran said.

This is a very good instinct, he said, “because what it means is people realise they need to question the source, the authenticity of the information and its reliability”.

Newspapers and the media remain an important source of accurate information, he added.

“The media plays a very important role, (and) the mainstream media remains one of the key sources of information people rely on.”

When Singapore enters the general election season, the Government will ensure people get reliable and truthful information for citizens to exercise their vote in a well-informed way, he said.

“The experience in other countries has shown that, in particular, in an (election) hustings period, there is more froth, especially on social media, in the digital realm, and a lot more misinformation starts to spread,” he said. “So, the key is ensuring our citizens are well informed, they understand the facts clearly and we are able to debunk the falsehoods quickly.”

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World News

Grounded cabin crew get hospital training as Sweden battles coronavirus

STOCKHOLM (Reuters) – Furloughed crew from crisis-hit Scandinavian airline SAS are taking a three-day course in basic hospital duties to help plug gaps in a Swedish healthcare system strained by thousands of coronavirus cases.

The airline, part owned by the governments of Sweden and Denmark, temporarily laid off 10,000 staff – 90% of its workforce – this month to cut costs and ride out a plunge in air travel due the pandemic and related border closures.

With Stockholm’s healthcare system in need of reinforcement as cases rise, Sophiahemmet University Hospital is teaching former cabin crew skills such as sterilizing equipment, making hospital beds and providing information to patients and their relatives.

The first students are due to complete the course on Thursday and the response has been overwhelming.

“We now have a long, long list of healthcare providers that are just waiting for them,” said Johanna Adami, principal at the University. Airlines in Australia, and the U.S. have also enquired about using the training methods for their staff.

She said municipalities, hospitals and nursing homes have all been queuing up to employ the re-trained staff, who will number around 300 in the coming weeks. Adami said airline staff were particularly suited to helping in the healthcare sector.

“They have basic healthcare education from their work. They are also very experienced to be flexible and think about security and also to handle complicated situations,” she said.

Sweden has around 4,500 confirmed cases of the virus and 180 deaths, with the capital especially hard hit. Healthcare officials in Stockholm have scrambled to set up a temporary hospital in a convention center and warned of a lack off staff and safety equipment to meet the crisis.

Malin Ohman, 25, a airline stewardess from northern Sweden was in the first class of students.

“In the a blink of an eye I decided – ‘yes of course, why wouldn’t I’,” she said of her decision to retrain. “I felt that we could just contribute with something,” she added.

The course is free of charge and the companies involved with the training are not seeking to make a profit. Funding, about 7 million Swedish crowns ($698,000) is provided by the Marianne and Marcus Wallenberg foundation.

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World News

India’s race to build a $650 ventilator

In an 8,000 sq ft (743 sq m) facility in the western Indian city of Pune, a bunch of young engineers are racing against time to develop a low-cost ventilator that could save thousands of lives if the coronavirus pandemic overwhelms the country’s hospitals.

These engineers – from some of India’s top engineering schools – belong to a two-year-old start-up which makes water-less robots that clean solar plants.

Last year, Nocca Robotics had a modest turnover of 2.7 million rupees ($36,000; £29,000). The average age of the mechanical, electronic and aerospace engineers who work for the firm is 26.

India, by most estimates, only has 48,000 ventilators. Nobody quite knows how many of these breathing assistance machines are working. But it is a fair assumption that all those available are being used in intensive care units on existing patients with other diseases.

About one in six people with Covid-19 gets seriously ill, which can include breathing difficulties. The country faces seeing its hospitals hobbled as others around the world have been, with doctors forced to choose who they try to save.

At least two Indian companies make ventilators at present, mostly from imported components. They cost around 150,000 ($1,987; £1,612) rupees each. One of them, AgVa Healthcare, plans to make 20,000 in a month’s time. India has also ordered 10,000 from China, but that will meet just a fraction of the potential demand.

The invasive ventilator being developed by the engineers at Nocca Robotics will cost 50,000 rupees ($662). Within five days of beginning work, a group of seven engineers at the start-up have three prototypes of a portable machine ready.

They are being tested on artificial lungs, a prosthetic device that provides oxygen and removes carbon dioxide from the blood. By 7 April, they plan to be ready with machines that can be tested on patients after approvals.

“It is most certainly doable,” said Dr Deepak Padmanabhan, a cardiologist at Bangalore’s Jayadeva Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences and Research, and a key advisor on this project. “The simulations on artificial lungs have been done and seem to work well.”

Inspiring story

The race to develop this inexpensive, home-grown invasive breathing machine is an inspiring story of swift coordination and speedy action involving public and private institutions, something not common in India.

“The pandemic has brought us all together in ways I could never imagine,” says Amitabha Bandhopadhyay, a professor of biological sciences and bioengineering at Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Kanpur, and a key mover of the project.

The young engineers mined open source medical supplies groups on the internet to find information on how to make the ventilators. After securing permissions, it took them exactly eight hours to produce the first prototype. Of particular use, say doctors, were some designs by engineers at MIT. With imports stalled, the engineers picked up pressure sensors – a key component of the machine that helps supply oxygen to lungs at a pressure that doesn’t cause injury – from those used in drones and available in the market.

Local authorities helped open firms that stock components – each machine needs 150 to 200 parts – and made sure that a bunch of engineers who had returned home to Nanded after the lockdown were still able to travel 400km (248 miles) back to Pune to work on the machine.

Some leading Indian industrialists, including a major medical device-making company, have offered their factories to manufacture the machines. The plan is to make 30,000 ventilators, at around 150-200 a day, by the middle of May.

Social media influencers joined the effort. Rahul Raj, a lithium battery-maker and an IIT alumnus, crowd-sourced a group called Caring Indians to “pool resources and experience” to cope with the pandemic. Within 24 hours, 1,000 people had signed up. “We tweeted to the local lawmaker and local police in Pune to help the developers, and made contacts with people who would be interested in the project,” Mr Raj said.

‘No-frills machine’

Expat Indian doctors and entrepreneurs who went to the same school – IIT is India’s leading engineering school and alumni include Google chief Sundar Pichai – held Zoom meetings with the young developers, advising them and asking questions about the machine’s development. The head of a US-based company gave them a 90-minute lecture on how to manage production. A former chief of an info-tech company told them how to source the components.

Lastly, a bunch of doctors vetted every development and asked hard questions. In the end, more than a dozen top professionals – pulmonologists, cardiologists, scientists, innovators, venture capitalists – have guided the young team.

Doctors say the goal is to develop a “no-frills” breathing machine tailored to Indian conditions.

Ventilators depend on pressurised oxygen supply from hospital plants. But in a country where piped oxygen is not available in many small towns and villages, developers are seeing whether they can also make the machine run on oxygen cylinders. “In a way we are trying to de-modernise the machine to what it was barely 20 years ago,” says Dr Padmanabhan.

“We are not experienced. But we are very good at making products easily. The robots that we make are much more complex to make. But this is a life-saving machine and carries risk, so we have to be very, very careful that we develop a perfect product which clears all approvals,” said Nikhil Kurele, the 26-year-old co-founder and chief executive officer of Nocca Robotics.

In just a week’s time, India will learn whether they pulled off the feat.

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Health

Coronavirus: Health officials say there are 10 outbreaks in long-term care homes around Ontario

Ontario health officials say there are 10 outbreaks of coronavirus in long-term care homes across the province as facilities work to isolate those infected from healthy residents.

Dr. Barbara Yaffe, Ontario’s associate medical officer of health, confirmed the number in a provincial update Tuesday afternoon.

On Monday, Toronto’s Rekai Centre (Sherbourne Place) confirmed its first death, a man in his 60s with underlying health conditions.

In a statement, the centre said the man was diagnosed on Friday and was immediately put into isolation. He shared a room at the home.

“He had been isolated prior to that because we suspected he might have it due to symptoms, but he passed away last evening which has been devastating for his family and the staff that cared for him,” said Sue Graham-Nutter, CEO of the Rekai Centre.

The centre went on to confirm that there are three more residents who have tested positive and two others with tests pending.

“This virus moves very quickly as public health officials have been telling us and right now they’re all stable, thank god, but the virus does move fast and if they have underlying conditions, it can be very troubling,” Graham-Nutter said, adding the centre only has six private rooms and those are already filled.

She said they have been in discussions with the Ministry of Health about “various solutions” in regards to COVID-19 in long-term care homes, as well as with residents sharing rooms in the facilities.

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“We are well aware of the fact that sharing is not good,” Graham-Nutter said.

At the Pinecrest Nursing Home in Bobcaygeon, Ont., 12 residents and a volunteer have died due to coronavirus.

There have been two deaths and a number of residents confirmed positive at Hillsdale Terraces Long-term Care Home in Oshawa, Ont.

The home confirmed it had 28 residents in isolation, split between three units.

When asked about issues of outbreaks at long-term care homes, Yaffe said there have been new directives put in place that she hopes will help, but warned that these homes house a vulnerable population.

“I know our staff is working with the ministry of long-term care to do more education and training for long-term care staff and retirement home staff and working with public health as well,” Yaffe said.

“I’m hoping with the more aggressive measures that are being put in place and the more aggressive training and support, that hopefully we’ll pick up cases as quickly as possible and that we’ll prevent as much as possible.”

Dr. Eileen de Villa, Toronto’s medical officer of health, echoed Yaffe’s statement and said one of Toronto Public Health’s main objectives has been to “minimize the possibility of COVID-19 entering into long-term care settings.”

The city has said five long-term care homes have seen coronavirus outbreaks.

“Particularly with COVID-19, we’re always working, ensuring that infection protection and control measures are well applied in the long-term care setting because of the vulnerability of residents there,” de Villa continued.

De Villa went on to say that TPH works to ensure that those residents who have COVID-19 are “isolated to the extent they can be.”

“And each home we know has its own unique circumstances, but I can tell you that the team at TPH has been working around the clock with long-term care partners.”

De Villa said that any positive test at a home, whether it be a resident or staff member, is considered “very high priority.”

Meanwhile, Premier Doug Ford extended the province’s state of emergency to April 13, while Toronto Mayor John Tory cancelled all events in the city through June 30, both in an effort to stop the spread of COVID-19.

As of 1 p.m. Tuesday, Ontario had 1,966 total cases of coronavirus. Thirty-three people have died and 534 cases have been resolved.

With files from Matthew Bingley

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World News

Hamilton launches website to support small businesses impacted by COVID-19

The city of Hamilton has launched a website where residents who want to support local businesses can access them, all in one place.

HometownHub.ca is divided into three sections: food, products, and gift cards, with direct links to the websites of Hamilton’s small businesses.

Norm Schleehahn, the city’s director of economic development, said the site, created in partnership with Hamilton Rising and ShopEatPlay, is also helping to bring merchants online if they’re not already selling their products remotely.

“There is no cost for the merchant to participate,” said Schleehahn.

“If the merchant does not offer gift cards at this time, ShopEatPlay will get them up and running with a digital gift card offering at no cost to the business for three months.”

Schleehahn describes the site as a “parallel economy” for brick-and-mortar businesses that rely on walk-up traffic and don’t have that particular revenue source at this time.

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced hundreds of retailers across Hamilton to close their doors or reduce their operational capacity.

For businesses on Locke Street, which were slowly beginning to recover after months of construction closed the street to traffic, it’s been a major blow.

“Locke Street is just devastated,” said Steven McDuffee, who has been running Pure Home Couture Apothecary on Locke alongside his wife Abby since 2002.

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The road underwent major reconstruction between March and September of 2019, during which it was closed to vehicle traffic. The street re-opened toward the end of September but was still impacted by construction until November.

During that time, McDuffee estimates that about 15 businesses shut their doors permanently and the ones that remained open lost up to 50 per cent of their business.

Pure Home was forced to let its staff go and the store is now being run solely in its online form by Steven, Abby and their son.

One of the products that they’ve started selling online is a homemade sanitizer that started when Abby was making some just for use at home.

“Because our daughter has cerebral palsy and she’s severely challenged … we have to be super careful on this, bringing anything home. So she was making some hand sanitizer because we have all of the ingredients. For our perfumes, diffusers, room sprays, and things that we normally make. And then she thought, why don’t I put a label on this and sell it?”

The hand sanitizer has been one of their most popular items since transitioning to the online-only store, but McDuffee said they now have another challenge: the supply chain.

“Things that you need are not readily available. There’s high demand for hand sanitizer ingredients, bottles and things of that nature. Everybody wants it, so it’s hard to get.”

Other suppliers have shut down and aren’t producing the ingredients they need. As a result, McDuffee said they’re only selling what they have in stock.

“It’s hard to make any promises to anybody because you can only work with what’s in your factory. And beyond that, it’s just kind of roll the dice and see what today brings.”

With the launch of the city’s HometownHub site, McDuffee said he hopes it encourages people to support their local businesses while staying at home.

“To go on Amazon and pull products out of the U.S. right now for whatever reason, if they can be replaced by a Canadian-made product or a locally-made product, I would hope that that’s something that people will gravitate to. Because we all need to help each other right now.”

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