FREEPORT, Grand Bahama — “This is the most people I’ve been exposed to in about a month.”
This was the sentiment of British expatriate educator Paul Torrington from his spot on a line at Solomon’s Lucaya in Freeport that snaked so far away from the store’s front entrance that it bottlenecked with approximately 100 shoppers huddled closely under shade to avoid waiting on the adjacent roadway in the heat of the Tuesday sun.
It was precisely the kind of close proximity health officials leading the COVID-19 fight in The Bahamas have repeatedly warned against, and was juxtaposed against a long line of elderly and disabled residents at the opposite end of the store’s entrance — many of whom had been standing in line for over six hours.
As The Nassau Guardian photographed long queues at food stores in Freeport, residents shouted, “Show these pictures to Minnis”, expressing their frustration with unprecedented lines they attributed to the current alphabetized shopping schedule implemented ahead of Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis’ five-day lockdown order.
Torrington, who came to Freeport shortly after the passage of Hurricane Dorian and had been standing in line for over two hours, said, “It would be interesting to see an explanation for why this is better than what we had before the [previous] lockdown because I don’t see the logic in it.”
From his spot in the shade of the Seahorse Shopping Plaza, which houses the Solomon’s store, a man who identified himself only as Swain exclaimed, “Do you know how long I have been standing here? Going on three hours and I [ain’t] see the front of the building yet. I was in the road first and I’ve moved from the road to right here.”
Torrington, Swain and a resident who wished only to be known as Ms. Wells, are among the P through Z group of shoppers who due to the Wednesday 9 p.m. lockdown timeline, had only been afforded a window of a few hours on a single day to grocery shop.
Abiding by the Tuesday shopping schedule, senior citizens Marsha Cartwright, 71, and Angela Burrows, 70, travelled to the store on the day designated for seniors and people with disabilities from 6 a.m. to 12 p.m.
But by 1 p.m., both ladies, along with scores of others behind them in their demographic, had yet to enter the store, with many shoppers still ahead of them.
Donning a scarf as her makeshift mask and braving an over four-hour wait, Cartwright stressed, “If this was meant to make life better, it doesn’t.
“If you have a way, please let people know that this is not working. And they expect senior citizens to stand like this for over four and a half hours to get in the store? It doesn’t make any sense.”
A safe distance behind her and wearing a mask, Burrows disclosed, “Some of us have been here since 7 a.m. and some since 5 a.m.
“When we got here this morning, the trolleys were all taken by the people who are supposed to be on the line for 1 p.m. So what is the purpose of saying it’s for senior citizens and the disabled, and those who are supposed to come in 1 p.m. have all the trolleys?”
Lines could be seen at convenience stores and pharmacies throughout Freeport, and a good number of residents wore masks, either store bought or makeshift.
Miles away, at Sawyer’s Fresh Market, a popular supermarket in the Queen’s Highway district, shoppers lined up in a rectangular queue along the parking lot’s perimeter so as to avoid standing along neighboring streets.
But this led to many shoppers not maintaining the recommended social distance.
Ben Russell, who was among those waiting in line, expressed his hope that government would do away with its shopping schedule.
“And I don’t feel you need to shut down the food stores,” he opined, “because look at what is happening now — long lines.
“People have got to get food for their families, so if you are going to shut everything down, what do you expect the people to do?”