“The whole place look like grand market,” was how Alston Hemmings, a 65-year-old retired teacher, described the scene at the Linstead Market in St Catherine yesterday.
A visit to the busy town centre on the second day allotted for shopping during the seven-day lockdown of the parish revealed that social distancing under the current measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 was near impossible.
In his announcement of Tuesday, Prime Minister Andrew Holness mandated that people 65 years old and older were allowed to shop between 8:00 am and 10:00 am, while those with surnames starting with letters A-M should shop from 10:00 am to 1:30 pm, and the others from 1:30 pm to 5:00 pm.
During the parish-wide lockdown, while outdoors, people are also encouraged to practise social distancing and wear something to cover their nose and mouth.
However, while many were seen observing the latter, social distancing and shopping by surnames were almost completely ignored, as a sea of people crowded the streets of Linstead and the roadway leading into the market.
Hemmings told the Jamaica Observer that things were so hectic he had to put off getting his medication so that he could get food, since there was not enough time to do both.
“I went to the pharmacy to get my medication, but when I saw the long train line I turned back. Two hours of shopping is not possible in a place like Linstead. You have much people coming from all over,” he said, naming places as far as Glengoffe in the parish.
Prime Minister Andrew Holness, at the press conference on Tuesday announcing the lockdown, encouraged persons to shop as close to their home as possible.
However, in the bustling town centre of Linstead, people travelled from far to shop at the famous Linstead market.
“A lot of people come here to shop. People come from as far as Kellits. But if you give people only two hours to buy what they need then you a guh have a crowd and the virus is going to spread more,” Hemmings said.
At the Bargain World Food Store, long lines stretched into the roadway and down past the closed shutters of other businesses. A mother and daughter seen waiting in line told the Sunday Observer that they had been waiting for over an hour.
“We have been waiting for a long time, but we just have to work with it,” said the mother.
The woman, who wished not to give her name, had just come back from the market and complained that the price for vegetables and other ground provisions had skyrocketed.
“Everything double!” exclaimed one woman. “Vegetables on a whole gone up. Things like cabbage that sell $40 a pound selling for $150. Raising the prices like this is not fair,” said the woman.
She also shared the sentiment of several other individuals who spoke with the Sunday Observer that the allotted time for shopping was not sufficient, given the crowd of people showing up on one day.
“I think what the Government is doing is for the best, but I think that we need more time. It’s inconvenient for so many people to come on one day. But we need the stuff, so we just have to wait. That’s why so many of us standing here waiting,” said the woman.
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