Hellshire vendors plead for beaches to stay open
Vendors and fisherfolk at Hellshire Beach in St Catherine are appealing to the Government to keep beaches open as they attempt to recover from the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Minister of Local Government and Community Development Desmond McKenzie reported a 91 per cent non-compliance rate with social-distancing rules at beaches and rivers and is expected to make a statement in Parliament today on the protocols.
Restaurant operator and member of the Half Moon Bay Association, Donna Nation, said that beachgoers have generally adhered to state-ordered six-foot distancing rules, with the exception of Father’s Day, which saw hordes of leisure seekers swarming the facility.
“It was a special day, so everybody just came out because they didn’t get the chance to come out on Mother’s Day,” Nation told The Gleaner.
She said sales are trickling and they continue to have challenges paying bills and putting food on their tables.
Nation said that various business operators were seeking to use moral suasion and crowd control to keep beachgoers apart.
“We try to contain the crowd by closing the gate. On the weekends, we allow a certain number of people to come in, and then when they go, we let in the next set,” she said. “In the week, we don’t have a problem with crowd control.”
Dining is not accommodated at the majority of restaurants on the beach, she said.
Nation warned that businesses would suffer another big hit if restrictions were tightened or, if worse, beaches were ordered closed. Beaches and rivers were reopened for swimming and exercising on June 7.
Chef Selvyn Williams said the losses sustained during two months of closure could not be counted.
“A lot of people came out like the first week, but last week, mi never see so much people,” Williams told The Gleaner.
“This a our source of living, so at the end of the day, if dem close beach again, me haffi just stay home,” he said with a look of disappointment.
Winston Brown’s catch supplies his fish shop on the beach, as well as many others. He, too, wants beaches to remain open as he struggles to care for his eight children.
“Because mi nuh waah di fish dem spoil pan mi, mi just sell dem fi a price. It mash me up bad. A bout a million or more mi lose inna di three months,” he lamented.
Brown, a fisherman of 35 years, added: “I had to look other vendors to sell my fish to, because di COVID mek mi cyah even pay miself or di people dem that work in mi business place.”