Small business operators bemoan closure of caysMonday, February 15, 2021
BY ROMARDO LYONS
The decision to extend the closure of all cays except the Morant Cay and Pedro Cay in light of the recent surge in COVID-19 cases became effective February 12 and will go until February 26. But this has angered small business operators at Lime Cay and Maiden Cay, who say they are suffering the consequences for something they didn't facilitate.
Andrea Taylor, who has been operating boat rides to both tourists and regular citizens at both affected cays for three years, told the Jamaica Observer that small business operators like herself were paying the price for something they had no part in.
“The truth is this, the rich people dem come wid dem big yacht came out here keeping a party. So all of them with yachts gathered out there with them girls and stuff and people with big boats come from Port Henderson side. They came that day (Boxing Day) and gather and keep this big get-together. Its not our fault. And small, poor people like me have to face the consequences. It's not fair,” said Taylor.
“When all the big yachts out there, obviously the coast guard going to see them. Poor people don't own dem big yacht deh. Dem just come one day and keep a big thing, and now we don't have no business. And everybody gone do back them big business, the wholesales and big companies and we the little people don't have no work,” added Taylor.
The announcement was made last Thursday by the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM), following discussions with the Minister of Local Government and Rural Development Desmond McKenzie, the Minister of National Security Dr Horace Chang and the municipal corporation with responsibility for the cays.
ODPEM warned that no activities should take place at the locations as the country continues to grapple with COVID-19.
“The JDF (Jamaica Defence Force) Marine Police will continue to rigorously monitor the cays and all other locations to enforce the laws and ensure that the public is conforming to the established protocols. In addition, the ODPEM is reminding the general public to adhere to the protocols under the Disasters Risk Management Act, (Enforcement Measures) (No 2) Order 2021,” the news release read.
The Lime Cay and Maiden Cay were first ordered closed on December 28 until January 15 by ODPEM, after what was described as “repeated breaches of COVID-19 protocols as outlined by the Disaster Risk Management Act” (DRMA) over the Boxing Day holiday weekend. It was then extended to the end of January.
At that time, around 20 yacht owners were given official warning, and National Security minister Dr Horace Chang said enforcement rules applied to everyone regardless of class. He also said a close eye would be kept on the cays to prevent similar occurences.
This makes the third time the cays have been closed, and an irate Taylor said as a sole trader, she is now left in a tough spot.
“They keep extending it (closure). And I'm sure they plan to extend it again. But what about our food? That's the only thing I do. There's nothing for me to do to pay my bills,” she lamented.
“I do business out there and we normally drop people at Lime Cay and pick them up back. So, whenever were dropping people, it's always people coming back. So, the cay has never been full at one point in time. I take a limited amount of persons a day since COVID.”
Likewise, another boat operator, who requested anonymity, said small business were being unjustly punished.
“My groups have always been under 15 or even 10, and people get temperature checks, sanitisation and that sort of thing. We cater to persons in these every small groups mostly in early mornings. They closed the cay because of a party that I wasn't a part of. My commercial activity wasn't a part of it in any way.”
The man who has made a business of Lime Cay for the past five years described the closure as tactless.
“I have bookings for Valentine's weekend coming and the cay is closed now and it is closed for everybody. There is no exemption or anything. My small, commercial activity get hit because of that,” he said.
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