Market vendors plead for more time
It was less than two hours before 2 p.m. yesterday and fewer than 10 customers milled about between the Cross Roads Market meat and ground provision areas that serve some communities in Kingston. But come today, there may be a rush at that time with the Government imposing tighter opening hours at all markets islandwide.
In a bid to reduce the risk of the spread of COVID-19 – the disease caused by the novel coronavirus – Prime Minister Andrew Holness announced on Monday that markets would be open from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. He urged vendors and higglers to pay close attention to the requirements of social distancing and practise sanitisation regimes.
The majority of vendors with whom The Gleaner spoke said they understood the necessity for restrictions, but called for the Government to extend opening time by four hours.
Gwendolyn Bailey, who relocated from the demolished Constant Spring Market a year ago, said the early closure is bound to affect sales.
“Me come here 9 o’ clock inna di morning, and market fi lock 2 o’ clock. Where mi a go get customers from?” she asked.
Bailey and a few others like Zelpha Marsden depend mainly on customers making purchases after work hours.
“If it close at 5 or 6 p.m., that would be reasonable. Many people leave work and come to look one likkle pound a yam or half-dozen banana to cook,” Marsden lamented.
Keisha Davis, a vendor for 22 years, is rolling with the punches.
“What if we had to stay home? We just have to work with the time frame. People will come out earlier like how they know there is an early closing time,” said Davis.
Meanwhile, in the meat market, butcher Oneil Weise said he was willing to comply with “anything to help us prevent the spread of the virus”.
“On the weekend was busy like month end. We had people that didn’t want to come inside – they stayed in their vehicle and we took the meat out there to them,” the 48-year-old said.
HEALTH A PRIORITY
Meanwhile, meat vendor Ashley Sutherland told The Gleaner that his health and that of his customers was a priority.
“Di virus a go affect me more than the business. If me affected, then the business gone!” Sutherland exclaimed.
Since Jamaica confirmed its first case of COVID-19, vendors have been taking extra safety measures.
Some had hand sanitiser, disinfectant and rubbing alcohol, while others were armed with aloe vera mixed with rubbing alcohol.
These products are provided to customers upon request. For those who prefer to wash their hands, vendors said that water was readily available from the market’s tanks.
One of the few purchasers in the market, Lorna, said her usual shopping time was between 3 and 4 p.m., but having heard the new opening hours, she ventured out earlier.