Sat | Apr 4, 2020

‘The worst Easter ever’! - Portmore fish vendors bemoan slash in sales due to COVID-19

Published:Friday | March 27, 2020 | 12:13 AMDanae Hyman/Gleaner Writer
Fish vendors Doreen Benjamin (left) and Olgamay Watt along Port Henderson Road in Portmore.
Fish vendors Doreen Benjamin (left) and Olgamay Watt along Port Henderson Road in Portmore.

Just like bun and cheese, which is a staple for most Jamaicans during the Lenten season, fish also takes pride of place on the plates of many at this time. But with the outbreak of the novel coronavirus, which has forced potential fish buyers to remain in their homes, fish vendors located on the Port Henderson strip in Portmore, St Catherine, have already seen a reduction in sales and are bracing for one of the worst Easter periods ever.

Doreen Benjamin, a 47-year-old fish vendor, said so far this year, when compared to other Easter periods, business is doing extremely bad and she fears that in coming weeks, sales will drop even further.

“Today is the 25th (Wednesday). Normally last year, the place full. We hand would a tired to work, and now a barely nothing. Normally, customers would even call in them order, and now nobody nah call in. Two weeks from this is Easter and nothing all now. We have bills to pay, we pay light bill, too, not because a Port Henderson, we pay we bills.

“I don’t think Easter is going to be bright because for all the people them that would come out, first the Government put it to 20, now them put it to 10, so them just going to not come ‘cause them nuh know who have it from who nuh have it and you can’t have the bundle,” Benjamin said.

NEW MEASURES

Giving details on restrictions on public gatherings at a press conference at Jamaica House on Tuesday, Prime Minister Andrew Holness said that the original order that confined the assembly of persons to 20 would now change to gatherings of 10. He cautioned that this new measure would be strictly enforced.

Also making announcements on Tuesday, Finance and the Public Service Minister Dr Nigel Clarke, in Gordon House, highlighted a number of measures detailed in the Holness administration’s $10-billion COVID contingency package to assuage the harsh effects of the novel coronavirus pandemic on Jamaicans.

Among them was $800 million for COVID MSME grants to support micro and small business, and $1.1 billion to support COVID grants for the informally employed who are affected.

However, Petagay Hall, another fish vendor on the strip, said they will not benefit from all the Government has to offer, so how they will manage to pay their bills in coming months has been a thought that has been plaguing their minds.

“The payout a for registered businesses, a nuh fi we, that nah benefit us. Like we weh deh pon the sidewalk nuh relevant to the Government. Dem nah go pay we nothing so we a go really feel it. This is our daily survival. We pay we bills, how we survive if everybody come off the road? This is our daily bread,” Hall said.

Further, she said the fishermen will also be negatively impacted because they depend on the vendors to buy the fish so they can make a living.

Waneta Allison, a veteran fish vendor, said she is urging persons to still come out and buy once the prime minister does not fully restrict movements.

“We use our sanitisers and know how to keep ourselves, and know that we don’t let anybody else touch our food. Fish is perishable so we cannot keep it, so we need the persons to come out and buy,” she said.