Wednesday, March 25, 2020
By FARRAH JOHNSON
VENDORS at Arawak Cay and Potter’s Cay Dock said while the temporary closure of their businesses is unfortunate, they understand the shutdown is necessary to deter the spread of COVID-19 locally.
On Monday, Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis ordered a daily 24-hour curfew and mandated the closure of all public beaches, the Fish Fry at Arawak Cay and the stalls at Potter’s Cay Dock.
Vendors at the popular food spots yesterday told The Tribune they are willing to comply with the newly imposed restrictions, because they understand the country is currently in a “state of emergency”.
Rodney Russell, president of the Arawak Cay Conch, Fish, Vegetable & Food Vendors Association, said he believed the government extended the curfew to be “proactive” in its response to the contagious disease.
“I think that the prime minister of The Bahamas has made the right decision and I think the decision ought to be adhered to,” he said.
“What else can he do? This is a destination for a lot of persons and if we are infected and the world hears that we are infected, dog eat our lunch.”
Mr Russell added that many restaurant operators were making the most of the shutdown and using the free time to tie up loose ends at their establishments.
“Right now, out here is quiet,” he told this newspaper. “Most of the vendors here are doing the little odd jobs that they wanted to do. Some are painting up and some are just cleaning up inside and giving the kitchens a good clean up.
“They’re taking this time now to be as clean and pristine as possible so when this is over, we could all know more about cleanliness and keeping our environment clean.”
When asked whether he expected the coronavirus to have such an immense impact on the country’s tourism industry so quickly, he added: “This not only affects Arawak Cay, because we’re only a small part of the country’s revenue stream.
“But it affects the entire Bahamas and whatever affects the entire country also affects us, because a lot of the visitors who come to The Bahamas hear about Arawak Cay and want to experience it.
“So therefore, if our visitors are being impeded, so is everything else. Our hotels, our tourism industry, our straw market — everywhere that tourists in this country want to go and see and the Bahamians want to take them is impacted.”
Still, Mr Russell said he was confident that Fish Fry would be able to “bounce back” once the outbreak ends.
“I don’t know how long this pandemic will continue, but it cannot last forever,” he said. “And whenever it is over, Arawak Cay will be blooming like a new flower.
“Our people are used to going out and enjoying themselves. We’re not used to being restricted and we don’t know what restriction is. So the minute this is all over, this country will be blooming again.”
Mr Russell added that fishermen on the Family Islands have already started stocking up on seafood to sell when the industry picks up again.
“There’s no fear right now. The fishermen are waiting for when this is over too, because they know that the economy will turn around and they know that once this pandemic has been cleared, Bahamians will be coming to Fish Fry and they will be able to send their stuff to us.”
Mr Russell also said he believed the temporary shutdown will make vendors more aware of the importance of practicing good hygiene.
“I think it will make us more cognizant of our environment and what we ought to be doing in order to keep our customers safe,” he said.
“I think this is also going to really wake up persons at Arawak Cay and make the public more aware to pay more attention to those establishments that they go to, to make sure that they are following the health standards.”
Down at Potter’s Cay Dock, Giovanni Sawyer, the owner of Island Delight, said he expected the shutdown after seeing how the coronavirus impacted other countries.
“Seeing what’s going on right now in the world and even in our country, it’s only right that they shut the place down to try and fight this virus off,” he said.
“I’ve thought about it and I think it’s definitely going to have an affect on us in the long run in months to come, but we still have to do what we have to do.”
Mr Sawyer said during the curfew, he plans to stay home with his family to make sure they are safe.
He added that “working is like a thing of the past” to him at the moment, because he can’t be bothered to “worry about making money,” while there is a possibility the pandemic may worsen.
“I mean everyone is actually going through the same thing with losing their jobs and the hotels shutting down for months,” he said. “So basically everyone is feeling the pinch all at the same time.
“But once we get the okay to clear, open up and sell again, we’ll be back out there to see exactly what happens.”
Mr Sawyer said he was confident Potter’s Cay Dock vendors would be able to get back to business as usual once the curfew is lifted.
“As soon as the guards are dropped and Bahamians are able to go about and get back on with their regular lives, they’re going to be out here,” he insisted.
“They’re going to come out and enjoy themselves, because being locked down in a house for days, weeks or months is a long time and we ain’t used to that kind of stuff. So I think they are going to definitely come out for their conch salad, their fried fish and all that good stuff that they are used to having.”
The emergency orders issued by Dr Minnis expire on March 31.