Charles Gordon Market finally falling into COVID-19 compliance
It would appear that the St James Municipal Corporation (StJMC) has finally gotten a handle on the rampant disorder at the Charles Gordon Market in Montego Bay, as it relates to getting vendors to operate in line with the health and safety protocols instituted to blunt the spread of COVID-19.
A robust unit of municipal police has taken charge of the roadway around the market, putting an end to the scary lack of regard for social distancing and compliance with sanitisation procedures, which had many persons, including Montego Bay Chamber of Commerce President Janet Silvera, expressing fears that the market could become the next epicentre for the virus in Jamaica.
“I am really impressed with what I am now seeing,” said Beverley, a shopper who visited the market on Thursday. “I came here on Saturday and, when I saw the crowd and the disorder, I went straight back home without buying anything.”
When The Gleaner visited the market yesterday, the streets outside the facility were devoid of the customary rebellious vendors, whose places were taken by members of the security forces, who were patrolling in vehicles and on foot, alongside municipal police aligned to the StJMC.
“We are here to ensure that the streets are kept clear of those vendors who don’t want to play by the rules. We have been seizing the goods of those who have been playing the cat-and-mouse game and, as you can see, the streets are now clear. So I think they are getting the message,” a municipal police officer told The Gleaner.
According to Montego Bay Mayor Homer Davis, in light of the seriousness of COVID-19, the StJMC had very little choice but to intensify the efforts to force the vendors to buy into the attempt to make the market as safe as possible for all and sundry.
“It is good to see the new measures taking shape. Now, what we want to see is consistency,” said Davis. “We have 754 registered vendors inside the market, so the security forces can now take action against those who are trying to stay outside … I am very pleased with the support that we are getting from the regular police and the military. It is making a big difference.”
At the onset of the COVID-19 threat, Davis spearheaded a major clean-up and sanitisation drive at the market, which included putting in hand-washing stations. However, some vendors refused to leave the streets, creating a nightmarish situation for persons wishing to follow the safety measures put in to blunt the spread of the much-feared virus.
In fact, frustrated by what she was seeing at the market prior to the current crackdown, Silvera described the facility as, “an Alorica waiting to happen,” in reference to the St Catherine-based call centre which had quickly emerged as the epicentre of the virus, with more than 100 of the 223 cases registered in Jamaica.
Mayor Davis thinks the big test of the new measures will come tomorrow, which is usually the biggest shopping day of the week in Montego Bay. However, he is confident that, if the vendors and shopper cooperate, the measures will work.
“If people cooperate, I see no reason why we cannot function in an orderly manner and get the desired results,” said Davis. “We need to work together and do the right thing if we are to minimise the impact of this virus.”