Tough times!

Regional

Tough times!

COVID-19 puts brakes on taxis, businesses

BY KASEY WILLIAMS
Observer writer

Monday, March 23, 2020

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MANDEVILLE, Manchester — Taxi drivers, vendors and businesses in this south-central town, like many others islandwide, are bemoaning the harsh impact of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) on their livelihood.

“A dog a eat dog to how things set right now,” said a taxi operator who plies the usually busy Mandeville to May Day route.

He and his colleagues now spend most of their time just observing the unusually clear streets with few passengers in sight.

“Before the virus reach Jamaica, a daytime after me done buy gas, me usually make $10,000, but now me can barely make $4,000, and is a three-seater me drive, so just imagine the next taxi man weh can't even make $3,000 a day,” said another taxi operator who identified himself by his alias “Shelf”.

He believes the Government's one-less passenger requirement is pointless in controlling the spread of COVID-19.

“It nuh mek nuh sense. If you carry four passengers in the back and somebody come in the car with the disease, the one less [passenger] nah go stop it. The three-seater taxis weh usually carry seven, him [prime minister] say we must carry one less, so that a six. If a man in deh and have the virus, a the same thing everybody exposed. One less nuh mek nuh sense. Weh the Government a talk a foolishness,” he said.

“Weh the Government shoulda do, a stop the thing [virus] from come inna the country from long time before it escalate. Lock off the airports from day one. Them a try, but them move too slow and it too late now,” he added.

“Is like you have a pit bull and you see him chain a buss and you know if him get loose, people a go get bite up. Weh yuh a go do, wait so till the chain buss? A that the Government do,” another taxi driver chimed in.

The taxi operators say they have adhered to health practices on sanitising their vehicles regularly and washing their hands frequently.

“We buy Lysol and spray out we car. We wash hands more often and have hand sanitiser. As we collect money and give back change, we sanitise our hands,” said one of the taxi drivers.

Another, who plies the Mandeville to George's Valley route, is worried that he will not be able to care for his children.

“It rough, because the car weh me a drive a no fi mi, and mi have to give the boss him money. A four pickney mi have and them haffi eat,” he said.

His colleague, who plies the Mandeville to Knockpatrick route, said the suspension of face-to-face classes at Northern Caribbean University (NCU) has affected the route significantly.

“From NCU lock down we know say we corner dark. Mi out yah a try but mi barely a mek even $3,000 a day,” he said.

With markets now allowed to open from 6:00 am to 2:00 pm daily, one vendor, who identified herself as “Miss Pearl”, said she has resorted to street vending, selling 'bissy' tea, which she claims can help fight the virus.

“Drink it three times a day and it will help cleanse the blood. It will help keep away the virus from your body. When you drink it, you will feel different. This disease yah tough, but the herbs weh we have in this country can fight any virus and disease,” she said.

The slowdown in business in Mandeville has so far resulted in a popular Chinese-owned restaurant on Manchester Road shuttering its doors last week. A neighbouring Chinese haberdashery was also closed.

Another Chinese establishment, Ho's supermarket, which remained open up to late last week, instituted a thermal temperature checkpoint for all customers. Other stores have been spraying sanitiser and alcohol on the hands of their customers before allowing them to enter.


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