Thu | Jan 28, 2021

More cases, fewer masks?

Published:Saturday | August 8, 2020 | 12:00 AMJonielle Daley and Donjanelle Robinson/Gleaner Interns
A customer makes a purchase from a vendor in front of the Half-Way Tree Transport Centre in St Andrew on Friday. Scores of commuters were seen not wearing face masks.
Many pedestrians do not wear face masks to limit the spread of COVID-19 in Half-Way Tree.
Persons sitting inside the Half-Way Tree Transport Centre awaiting a bus. There has been growing complacency in Jamaica over the wearing of face masks to limit the spread of the new coronavirus.

Business owners in the Corporate Area are struggling to enforce the wearing of masks by customers, a growing concern as coronavirus cases have again begun to soar in Jamaica.

That spike hasn’t missed the attention of Michelle Bailey, a retail manager, who said that she and her workers have faced resistance from customers complaining about her business’ barring of entry to patrons not wearing masks.

Sanitisation is also hard to maintain, as some customers refuse to have their hands sprayed with cleansers because they deemed it unnecessary after having had it done elsewhere.

“Even a nurse come in and say you don’t need to sanitise,” she added.

Another business manager, who operates 17 properties, tries to enforce a zero-tolerance policy for customers and employees alike. He said that he has no problem pushing back at entrants if they repeatedly violate mask-wearing rules.

“No mask, no entry. If they don’t comply, they are banned for a period of one week, and if you don’t comply after that, they are banned for good,” the manager, who requested anonymity, told The Gleaner.

“If they step in, I will prosecute them. That includes my staff as well. I don’t play with that, neither my staff nor my tenants. Zero tolerance!” he said.

The manager said that his hard-line rule on masks means that the use of handkerchiefs is also banned.

”A handkerchief is not a mask. They have opened the term mask to anything that covers the face and not be specific about it, which is why you have people going around robbing the place,” he said.

That remark was no doubt a reference to the late July robbery of $3.2 million from a Jamaica National Bank MoneyShop in Whitehouse, Westmoreland.

The widespread use of masks has complicated life for the Westmoreland police, with the divisional commander lamenting how difficult it is to distinguish between criminals and law-abiding citizens.

Though Jamaica has had 987 cases of COVID- 19, with 177 active cases, The Gleaner came across many commuters who were not wearing masks on the streets.

Marcia Henry said that she has chosen not to wear a mask because of religious reasons.

“It is a violation of God’s law of health, and by wearing the mask, you are committing suicide. When you wear the mask, you are dishonouring God, and mankind is going towards a national Sunday law and this is a plan to pull everybody under these draconian laws that have been passing,” she insisted.

Store clerk Shaquielle Campbell said he does not see the need to wear a mask at work.

“Our store policy says no one should enter the store without wearing their mask, so I am thinking that if they are covered up, then it won’t be 100 per cent necessary for me to wear it,” he said.

“Inside here is kind of hot, so I would be suffocating in the mask.”