A huge crowd that yesterday descended on the town of Linstead, St. Catherine, crushed the government’s shopping policy, which was aimed at promoting social distancing to minimize the spread of the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19).
Several people throughout the town were observed doing things they should not. Those included making physical contact, or standing less than the recommended three feet apart.
Many, however, were seen wearing masks.
“It was chaotic, which means, in a state of complete confusion and disorder… Grand Market came rather early this year,” said David Brooks, a resident of Linstead town.
Minerva Elliot told The Beacon that she arrived in the town from as early as 5:45AM. “It was Grand Market; they had to call the police to control the people at the Western Union at Berry-Don,” she further said.
Linstead essentially was living up to its reputation for being a catchment for people from several other communities, including Ewarton, Lluidas Vale, Guy’s Hill and Bog Walk – all in St. Catherine, as well as Kellits in Clarendon.
Prime Minister Andrew Holness, last week Tuesday, declared a lock-down of Linstead and other parts of St. Catherine to slow the spread of the highly contagious COVID-19.
He also announced that Wednesday and Saturday are the only shopping days. People 65 years and older were told to shop for medicine or food from 8AM until 10AM. Persons with surnames starting with the letters ‘A’ to ‘M’ were instructed to shop from 10AM to 1:30PM, and the others were told to do their shopping from 1:30PM to 5PM.
People clearly did not abide by the stipulations mentioned – sometimes due to no fault of their own.
Some spent virtually all of their allotted shopping time in relatively long queues outside major supermarkets such as Bargain World Food Store in the centre of Linstead town, and Berry-Don Financial Services on King Street.
The police had to be summoned to Berry-Don, which, unlike many other money transfer agencies, opened its Western Union outlet to serve the often chaotic gatherings.
A relatively short distance away, a number of senior citizens complained about the protracted wait for service at the pharmacy located on the compound of Linstead Public Hospital. Many of them ended up waiting after the 10AM deadline given for them to be back in their homes.
Fletcher’s Avenue – crammed with vendors, consumers and vehicles – easily was the busiest part of the town.
The chaotic scenes and disregard for social distancing in Linstead and other towns throughout St. Catherine may prompt Government to adjust future shopping arrangements.
Naomi Francis, Press Secretary to Prime Minister Andrew Holness, yesterday tweeted that the prime minister visited sections of the parish and ‘heard first hand the concerns of residents’. She added that ‘changes are coming’.
Jamaica so far recorded 173 confirmed cases of COVID-19, including five deaths. Some persons in and around Linstead are among those tested positive.
By Horace Mills, Journalist
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