Long lines of traffic led to fast food restaurants, hardware stores, public markets and other major shopping areas today, as Barbadians took advantage of the first day of the phased re-opening to commercial activity following four weeks of lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Before businesses even got the chance to open their doors this morning, people were standing in long lines waiting to enter.
When a Barbados TODAY team visited some of these establishments, owners, managers and employees reported that they were excited to be back in business.
Employees at popular fast-food restaurants were kept busy throughout the day. There were long lines of traffic at drive-thrus and delivery cars connected to a few of the establishments were spotted on the roads with high frequency.
Chefette Restaurants Limited which has been advertising a re-opening special since last week, issued a message on its social media platform this afternoon, advising its valued customers that due to the overwhelming demand, the fast-food chain has closed all online ordering for island-wide delivery service for March 1 in order to ensure that workers get home safely by the 7 p.m. Government curfew.
For the first time in weeks, Barbadians were also able to make their way to fish and vegetable and fruit markets to make their purchases.
While the stalls at the Bridgetown Fisheries Complex were not as busy as vendors would have wanted, they took the opportunity to clean and prepare their work areas for the days ahead. Several vendors who were present said they were thankful for customers who came to purchase fish they had on ice before the lockdown.
There was much activity at the gates to the complex as customers, vendors, and fishermen had to sanitize and get temperature checks before being allowed to enter.
Vendor Sharon Bellamy-Thompson said workers at the complex took longer to get into the market than they usually do, as they had to show authorities their necessary documentation, including health certificates.
“Right now in the market even with the slow start, you can get some dolphin, marlin, flying fish, or some snapper and that would be fish that people had put up a little before the lockdown. I am really happy that the market has re-opened at the right time because Good Friday is right around the corner and people would have their fish on the table as is traditional,” Bellamy-Thompson said.
Young fish vendor Ayna Albert said she was happy to be back at work.
“The four weeks that I was out were depressing because there isn’t any other way to get money. First thing I am doing this morning is getting some jacks and hoping that those could get me through the day. Jacks are the only thing here for right now because the boats are still here, nobody ain’t gone out yet,” Albert said.
Fisherman Roger Greaves was dressed and ready to begin his two-week trip on an iceboat. He said he understood that fisherman, like other professionals could not go to work until the COVID-19 situation was brought under control.
“You can’t look at the dollar. You got to put yourself together and make sure that the country is right. So it was good to shut down the country and now that it opened I feel great. I here looking for ice now to go back out to sea. I got a lady here that does take my fish. I don’t have any problem. I am glad the vendors could get the fish to sell because people want fish to eat,” Greaves said.
There was a hive of activity at the landing site at the Bridgetown Complex as boat owners and fishermen prepared their vessels, including stocking up on ice, before making their way out to sea. Several vendors gathered at one small vessel which was filled with a large quantity of jacks, the only fresh catch of the day.
One captain who did not give his name said he was disappointed that Government did not allow long line boats to go out to catch fresh fish that could have been donated to persons in need during the lockdown.
“After we ship the tunas to America then the rest of fish that left back we could have offered them to the Government to hand out to the people. But they just locked down suddenly and the boats that were out got called back in. But we feel good to be back out, we had what you can call a little vacation so we are ready to go,” the Captain said.
At the Cheapside Market, popular vendor Angela Greene was one of two vendors who took advantage of the re-opening.
Greene said from the time the market opened at 8 a.m. she experienced good sales from a steady flow of customer and even sold out certain on vegetables and herbs.
“Business was good today after four weeks break, I can’t complain. I was looking forward to coming back out and the people wanted this too. On entering the market you sanitize and when you get to the stalls you maintain your social distance,” Greene said.
Meanwhile, owner of J&E General Store on Black Rock, Main Road, St Michael, James Morgan, said he and his workers have been busy from the time they opened the doors to welcome customers they have not seen since February 3.
“We try to observe the protocols. We have the sanitizer at the door. We are only allowing three customers in at a time, the others would wait outside and then we would take your temperature and you sanitize your hands,” said Morgan, whose establishment sells general household and outdoor items.