Wearied by stalled business, some welcome end to lockdowns

As she sat on a cement block at Potter’s Cay Dock yesterday, Rochelle Grant, 50, said many Bahamians have suffered under recent lockdowns, so she hopes for better days now that Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis has announced that effective 5 a.m. on Monday, many businesses, including those at the dock, are permitted to reopen.

“I thank God,” Grant said.

“I was praying to God they would stop it. Thank God for Jesus. They don’t know how we [are] surviving. Nobody knows how we survive.”

Grant is unemployed, but assists her husband selling conch from a boat.

She said the lockdowns, which have been in place for a great part of the last five months, did more harm than good because many skilled Bahamians were left to suffer because of no money coming in.

“The people were stopping our livelihood,” Grant said.

“We are [industrious] people. No one can do what we can do over here. We need to work.”

Minnis announced on Monday that a hard lockdown of New Providence will not happen due to “positive trends” developing regarding COVID-19.

As such, many businesses will be allowed to reopen with appropriate physical distancing measures.

Yesterday, another vendor said he thought the lockdowns would never end given the high spike in cases in New Providence.

New Providence has recorded more than 700 cases in the last three weeks. That’s more cases than the entire Bahamas recorded between its first case in March and the start of August.

Many of those cases are from a testing backlog, which health officials said has finally been cleared.

Ashton Alcegaire, owner of Da Sugar Stand on Potter’s Cay Dock, said he was able to make some money during the lockdowns.

“Since one or two of the restrictions lightened up, my sales are gradually increasing,” Alcegaire said.

“To be honest, I’m delighted. I never thought he was going to come around to it. He [is] giving all of us a chance to make one or two dollars… You support the vendors. The vendors support you. Then we have customers coming, so the money will circulate.”

He said there were times during the pandemic when he really struggled.

However, with permission, he was able to make some money from essential workers who patronized his seafood business.

“I got good support from the essential workers,” he said.

“I am proud of that. Thank God they continued to show their support. With the country opening up, I’m hoping for business to increase.”

While some are rejoicing that businesses will resume their daily operations, some people fear that many will drop their guard.

Cecile Martin, a 69-year-old boatman on Potter’s Cay Dock, said although the virus will not disappear overnight, the country must reopen and people must continue following health protocols.

“All I’m afraid of is [whether] people will practice [social distancing],” Martin said.

“I hope they remember the virus ain’t gone nowhere. The government already said the virus [is] here forever. We can’t be locked down forever. I have to come out to try hustle and protect myself. Wash your hands, keep your distance. Keep yourself safe and protect others too.”

With no pension coming in, Martin said he has to continue investing the money he makes into his business to survive.

“I put in for my pension from that time,” he said. “I didn’t get it yet. I don’t understand what is going on. I sleep out here on my boat during the night. I make a little meal here and there, but it was hard during lockdowns.”

Martin said he is thankful the prime minister decided to end lockdowns but does not expect business to be booming as many people are unemployed.

“The customers aren’t coming right at hand because everybody is hurting through the virus,” he said.

“I can open up, but I don’t expect plenty of people to come. People may buy a little something they will use that day. They aren’t [able] to buy that much. The children at home and all that.”

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Italia Clarke

Italia Clarke joined the Nassau Guardian in August 2020. Clarke covers national, human interest and social issues. Education: University of The Bahamas, BA in Media Journalism

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