With the number of cruise visitors reduced and more Bahamians staying home due to the impact of COVID-19, the scene at Arawak Cay was quiet yesterday.
Some workers told The Nassau Guardian they are receiving much less customers, but a number of restaurants remained open despite the reduction in traffic.
Candie’s restaurant was one such example.
“We have seen a drop in business, at least about 75 percent, but it has not deterred me or some of the vendors,” said Lillian Laramore-Smith, a long-time employee.
She added, “[E]ven though the cruise lines have closed and the airlines are [beginning] to slow down, we still have our Bahamian people that supports us.”
A number of businesses were closed, some with signs posted on the door noting their closures as a result of COVID-19.
At Joey’s Seafood & Lounge, Proprietor Dario Williams said it was unusual for Arawak Cay to not have a crowd.
“Well, as you could see, the place is dead. It’s just staff here,” Williams said.
He added, “I have half of my staff off right now. Basically, it’s just me, my wife, my son, my uncle – it’s just family right now doing the majority of the work.”
Williams said that although Bahamians used to visit his stall more than tourists, “even the Bahamians isn’t coming out, because they’re scared”.
Yesterday, Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis announced two additional cases of COVID-19 in The Bahamas, bringing the total number of cases to three.
The government has declared a state of emergency, as it grapples with the highly infectious disease, which originated in Wuhan, China, in late December.
But Williams said he hopes the government does not decide to shut down businesses, as the economic impact would be too much.
“Healthcare is very serious, but then you’ve got to think about people’s finances and people having to support kids, and parents and people who don’t have it,” he said.
“So, the government needs to find a way to make something happen, even if it’s a small stipend for some of the workers.”
Williams added, “As long as the government gives us the green light to stay open, I’m going to stay open.
“But if not, I’ll have to shut down like everyone else.”
Crave Deli owner Danielle Sands said she is making preparations to do just that if government calls for it.
“We are in the process of shutting down right now, actually, until we get the clear,” she said, although she noted that she was waiting on the outcome of the House of Assembly proceedings before making a decision.
“I have to take my staff into consideration, I have to take into consideration that they are dealing with the public.
“I still have to take them into consideration and it is an iffy situation because in a lot of cases, if you don’t work you don’t get paid.
“However, if the risk is there, we have to be safe first, and so, right now, we’re going to see what happens after the government officials come out the House [of Assembly] today.
“We are prepared to shut down if we have to, but I have them basically getting prepared. Like, how I’m preparing my personal life, I’m having them prepare as well.”
Sands said she has just been trying to “stay focused” and not panic, but to pay attention to official information and recommendations from the Ministry of Health.
Alfred Butterfield, owner of Anchorage Market and Seafood Haven at Arawak Cay, also highlighted the need to focus on accurate information.
He also said he was trying to just focus on the positive in the situation.
“I’m not planning on closing down,” Butterfield said.
“Only way I [would] close down is if I probably get sick.
“[L]ike I tell even my staff, if they feel ill don’t come to work.
“Relax yourself, your job’s secure. You ain’t lose your job because this isn’t [anything] to do with you guys, this is bigger than all of us, and I very much tell you when the dust is settled [a lot] of us will be so amazed.”
He added, “Arawak Cay, in general, really is like 65 percent tourists, 35 to 40 percent Bahamian…
“But now, you know, Bahamians are afraid too, because you know people have been going around, stocking up, and so, I guarantee everybody’s probably cooking their own meal now [but] out of every bad situation there is some good in it.
“So, we need to look at this bad situation [and] find the good.”