MAYOR of Portmore Leon Thomas has called on vendors who are setting up illegal markets in residential areas of the municipality to desist, as they are increasing the likelihood of people contracting the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
Mayor Thomas made the call after trucks were seen in sections of the municipality selling market goods to large crowds, with many of the customers not observing health and safety standards as outlined by the Ministry of Health and Wellness.
The parish of St Catherine, in which the municipality falls, is under lockdown following a spike in infection. According to the prime minister, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Monday are designated as days when the lockdown would be relaxed to allow residents to restock their homes.
Prior to yesterday’s relaxing of restrictions, Mayor Thomas met with the Members of Parliament from Portmore; Senior Superintendent of Police Clive Blair; civil bodies in the municipality; and the chamber of commerce, following which it was decided that five locations would be designated as market areas — Greater Portmore Football field, lands beside the Scout Association of Jamaica office in Edgewater, lands beside Southborough Primary School, lands beside Captain’s Bakery and Grill near Portmore Mall, and the Hamilton Gardens football field. These areas, he said, were so designated as they were adequate to allow for social distancing, crowd control and adequate police presence.
“We decided against markets operating in [residential areas] as it would not be easy for the police to control the crowds that would gather. Before [yesterday] we rearranged parking for one major supermarket — Joong — and we demarked and sanitised areas where persons would occupy, so persons would shop in [an] orderly fashion with some level of comfort,” Mayor Thomas said.
Mayor Thomas said he was surprised and disappointed when he was called to several locations – namely Passagefort, Westchester and Bridgeport in St Catherine south-eastern – where large groups of persons were bundled together, some not wearing masks and none standing six feet apart, as outlined by the Ministry of Health, and in some instances babies were present.
Mayor Thomas said that he informed the truck drivers – some of whom were not wearing masks — that they could only operate from the designated market areas.
He also appealed to residents to use the designated market areas to conduct business as those areas are better controlled, demarcated, and are properly secured.
Thomas, meanwhile, will be meeting with stakeholders, including Jamaica Agricultural Society and Rural Agricultural Development Authority, to look at yesterday’s activities and ways in which improvements can be made ahead of Friday’s relaxing of restrictions in the parish.
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