Sat | Jan 23, 2021

Health officials ramp up COVID message at ‘Curry’

Published:Saturday | December 5, 2020 | 8:35 AMJason Cross/Gleaner Writer
Public health aides sanitise the hands of a snacks vendor as they prepare to give her a mask outside the Coronation Market in downtown Kingston yesterday during a COVID-19 sensitisation and testing initiative.
Public health aides sanitise the hands of a snacks vendor as they prepare to give her a mask outside the Coronation Market in downtown Kingston yesterday during a COVID-19 sensitisation and testing initiative.

The sight of several vendors and shoppers in the island’s largest market conducting business yesterday without observing COVID-19 prevention protocols, including social-distancing and mask-wearing guidelines, was troubling for Charmaine Vassell-Shettlewood.

The senior public health nurse from the Kingston and St Andrew Health Department was touring the Coronation Market in downtown Kingston and other sections of the commercial district with a team of public health nurses and aides, handing out masks and sanitisers while reminding persons of the importance of the COVID-19 protocols.

Testing was also being conducted for the deadly virus, which has claimed at least 260 lives and infected 10,987 persons locally up to Thursday.

“As you can see, persons inside the market are just not wearing their masks,” a forlorn Vassell-Shettlewood said. “They are not maintaining social distance. Some persons are also saying that some of the masks cause the corona[virus]. That is now a new spin to it.”

It is for this reason why her team was carrying out the sensitisation initiative yesterday.

“We are sweeping because it is Christmas season now and a lot of people will be downtown doing a lot of business, and we have seen that persons are not observing all the protocols. This exercise is a reminder that you must beat COVID-19 by wearing your mask, washing your hands and keeping your distance,” she stressed.

While the vendors generally accepted the message, they were mostly concerned about the continued economic fallout from the pandemic. Their projection for the usually busy Christmas shopping season this year was bleak.

“Things look a way, but we have to try,” said 72-year-old vendor Gloria Bryce of Cocoa Walk in south Manchester. “Nothing nah gwan, but mi still have to try. From me nah feel nuh pain, me affi up and dung.”

Yvonne Ford quickly donned her mask when The Gleaner asked why she wasn’t wearing one.

“Mi have my mask over deh suh, but [because] mi just come, mi nuh put it on yet. I usually encourage people in here to put on their mask,” she explained.

“COVID-19 nuh respect nobody,” Ford admitted, adding, “Business kinda slow. It could be a little better for the Christmas, but no goods nuh deh.”

Mixed vegetables vendor Gertrude Cuff wasn’t taking any chances, wearing a cloth mask. She said that a healthy life was more important than a booming Christmas.

“I have been a vendor in this market for 67 years. Sometimes things good and sometimes it bad, but it is my job, so I have to satisfy, whether good or bad,” she told The Gleaner.

“From I have life, I don’t matter Christmas or what else wants to happen. ... COVID don’t bother me at all. I know that it’s God’s time, so I don’t make it bother me,” the senior citizen from east rural St Andrew said, adding that she was eating healthily and taking supplements to strengthen her immune system.

jason.cross@gleanerjm.com