Western News


St James Street vendors take advantage as municipal cops quarantine

Thursday, November 19, 2020

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MONTEGO BAY, St James -Twenty-seven municipal police at the St James Municipal Corporation (SJMC) who have undergone tests for the coronavirus (COVID-19), and have been subsequently placed in quarantine until November 25, have compromised the municipality's enforcement activities, including the recently declared no-vending zone on St James Street in Montego Bay.

“It definitely has a serious impact [on enforcement], because we don't have the manpower to carry out the level of enforcement that we want to. I will have to wait until at least the 14-day quarantine is up before I can get that level of enforcement. So it's really a challenge,” mayor of Montego Bay, Councillor Leeroy Williams, who is also chairman of the SJMC, told the Jamaica Observer West on Tuesday.

He pointed out that while members of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) are assisting with enforcement activities, they would not have the adequate numbers to substitute for the municipal cops who have been off the job.

“The JCF is cooperating, but they too don't really have enough persons. For example, if it is a case that we decide to seize goods we would have our truck there to collect the goods. So, that [truck] wouldn't be available right now. That would not be available until any time after the 25th of this month. So therein lies the problem,” the mayor outlined.

After at least two members of the commercial services department—where the municipal cops are assigned— at the SJMC displayed flu-like symptoms last week, and in keeping with the COVID-19 protocols, the individuals were immediately asked to go to the health department to be tested for the virus.

Following the tests, the individuals were quarantined, in line with the COVID-19 protocols.

Out of abundance of caution, the decision was taken to ensure that all who would have come in contact with the two, who exhibited flu-like symptoms, be tested.

“We decided that they should all get themselves tested and once they got tested, normally they would be placed in quarantine. So that's the situation. It took two days to get them tested. I spoke to a senior person at the public health department and they said they have to undergo a 14-day quarantine,” Williams said.

The Observer West was unable to ascertain the results of the tests.

The Observer West has learnt that the municipality have since then, not only carried out deep cleaning and sanitising of the commercial services department, but continue to regularly sanitise the entire building.

On Tuesday, November 10, during a meeting with vendors, the mayor said that the decision to prohibit vending along St James Street will be strictly enforced. He argued that vendors have taken over the space, making it difficult for pedestrians and motorists to go about their business.

“The change is being instituted to return some form of law and order to this major roadway which is being overrun by vendors, posing challenges to motorists and pedestrians. The measure has been put in place to have the vendors peddle their goods in other locations around the city that have been designated as vending zones, once it is done in accordance with the law,” he said.

“Vendors are being warned that failure to comply will result in serious actions being taken against those who fail to comply. These measures could include seizure of goods to prosecution and a ban on offending vendors being registered to trade in the parish of St James,” he added.

But with the municipal police officers now off the job, the municipality does not have the manpower to carry out the planned strict enforcement.

“So when I spoke to the vendors I asked them to cooperate and I told them that if they don't cooperate there will be serious enforcement, but I am not in a condition right now to carry out that serious enforcement because I don't have the manpower. The quarantine will be up on the 25th of November,” Williams expressed.

During the meeting with the mayor, the vendors expressed concerns over the inadequate time span allotted to sell their goods.

Williams said he was aware of the effects of the curfew on vending, and said that considerations will be made to accommodate the vendors, while adhering to the COVID-19 regulations.

Meanwhile, when the Observer West visited St James Street yesterday scores of vendors were observed peddling their wares on the sidewalks of the busy roadway in the resort city.

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