Canadian Underwriter

Brokers ready for new round of lockdowns

November 13, 2020   by Adam Malik

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Manitoba went into lockdown Thursday morning after the province’s COVID-19 numbers ranked among the worst in the country and its healthcare system approached capacity. But this time, unlike the first go-around in the spring, brokers say they are in an advanced state of readiness for the latest lockdown rules.

This isn’t to say brokers didn’t adapt quickly when strict lockdown measures were first introduced in the spring as the pandemic grew — they did. But with that experience under their belts, they’re better-prepared for success today.

“Experience is a great teacher,” said Grant Wainikka, CEO of the Insurance Brokers Association of Manitoba (IBAM). “I believe that brokers and the public at large are learning as we go through these interesting times. Today, brokerages have masks, they are equipped with plexiglass barriers, and they have prepared themselves and their staff for unknown circumstances.”

Not to mention that they’ve had more time to get themselves organized, so they’re better prepared than when they had to do so in March, he added.

“I also think the seriousness of the virus is becoming more apparent to everyone as we read the number of cases and hospitalizations. So I expect brokerages to continue to be diligent in protecting themselves and their clients,” Wainikka told Canadian Underwriter.

Dr. Brent Roussin, Manitoba chief public health officer, speaks during the province’s latest COVID-19 update at the Manitoba legislature in Winnipeg Friday, October 30, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods

As of now, residents must follow a series of strict rules as the province attempts to reduce the number of new case counts. The province’s COVID-positive test rate was above 10% Tuesday when Premier Brian Pallister made the announcement along with Manitoba’s chief public health officer Dr. Brent Roussin.

Restrictions include:

  • Socializing with people within your own household
  • Faith-based gatherings are banned
  • Gym workouts, even masked ones, are banned
  • No playing of team sports
  • Movies and salons are closed
  • Non-essential retail stores and restaurants will be closed, but may do delivery and pickup.

“We need to turn these numbers around, and we need to turn them around now,” Roussin said.

Businesses impacted by closures will have financial supports available, Pallister announced.

Working from home full-time, at least for the short term, is expected, Wainikka said. “Of course, there could be concerns depending on the type of transaction, and this needs to be managed carefully with brokerages, regulators and our markets,” he said.

“I am happy to report that IBAM, the regulator, government, and our partners have all taken a pragmatic approach in response to the virus. We are all seeking solutions that foster safety and also protect the integrity of insurance transactions.”

The association is in regular contact with its broker members so that there is a clear understanding of what is expected of brokerages during this time, Wainikka explained. That’s one of a number of ways he noted how IBAM is supporting its members.

“We have also worked with the Insurance Council of Manitoba to amend regulations that are working to advance the safety of clients and staff,” Wainikka said. “Finally, we also have implemented a cost-share program for protective gear. Small businesses everywhere have a lot on their plates; we think it helps if we bulk-buy and distribute masks to our membership at a discount.”

There is concern for clients during this time, he noted. But he is hopeful that businesses will be able to adapt as the situation develops.

“I am encouraged by the active role and assistance the federal and provincial governments have offered small businesses to date,” Wainikka said. “Eventually, the virus will pass. I believe that many businesses will return stronger and smarter than ever.”


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