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Salons hope latest lockdown the last

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Beauticians and hairstylists in Norfolk County were back at it on June 30, tending to a large backlog of COVID hair and pandemic nails arising from the latest public-health lockdown.

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Ontario allowed businesses offering personal-grooming services – such as hair salons, beauty parlors and barber shops – to reopen with restrictions, as the province moved into Step 2 of its reopening plan.

They were glad to be back and re-connecting with their clients. However, many remain bitter at how the provincial government and public-health officials have treated their industry since the COVID-19 pandemic was declared in March of 2020.

“He (Premier Doug Ford) is causing poverty and taking food from our children,” said Laura Barber, owner of Karma Salon and Spa in Delhi. “I’m lucky I have a husband.

She said the premier is “forcing people onto the black market. What it comes down to is he’s starving families.”

Barber said government policies over the past 16 months have arbitrarily and unfairly targeted her industry. Barber is still waiting for a good answer as to why big-box retailers can admit hundreds of customers while her King Street business remains restricted to five people at a time. That’s a problem, Barber said, given that Karma Salon has five people on staff.

During the pandemic, salons – like a lot of businesses – have had to super-sanitize work stations between customers.

Barber said salons have been meticulous about sanitation for decades given that this basic business practice is key to keeping clients. Meanwhile, friends in the health-care sector have told her that hospitals are nowhere near as assiduous in emergency wards and other areas where sick people have congregated during the pandemic.

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Salons in Ontario were open for a few weeks since Christmas in between two lockdowns. Beauticians and stylists interviewed on June 30 warned this better be the end of it, otherwise there will be an explosion of off-the-books, black-market activity amongst professionals struggling to hang onto their clients while providing for their families.

Tracey Buysse, owner of The Barber Corner Hair-care for Men in Waterford, said province-wide lockdowns are a blunt instrument that should be applied with more precision. If COVID-19 hot-spots present themselves in the future, the province should deal with them in isolation and leave everyone else alone, she said.

“Keep it closed down in municipalities that are hot spots and keep the people affected there,” said Buysse. “Block the roads if you have to and let everyone else in the province get on with their lives.”

References to lockdown defiance were a common refrain during last Wednesday’s survey. Teresa Chalmers, owner of Tess Hair and Home on Main Street in Port Dover, said she would’ve opened in defiance of the most recent lockdown were her business not so new to town.

Chalmers, who has 43 years experience, relocated to Port Dover from Brantford in January. She has a seven-week backlog of appointments and even more on a waiting list. Chalmers said beauty-supply depots in Brantford have reported that many salons will not open till next week because the province’s advanced suspension of the latest lockdown came with short notice.

“I’m going to make it through, but it will be mayhem,” Chalmers said. “I hope people will be patient with us. His (Ford’s) lack of proper guidance for our industry has been terrible.”

For its part, the provincial government and authorities elsewhere have locked down the economy since March of last year to ease pressure on the health-care system and to prevent it from imploding.

Barber, in Delhi, said she wonders if the alleged cure is worse than the disease. She warned there will be no health-care sector to protect if pandemic remedies end up killing the tax base that pays for its upkeep.

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