Sun | Nov 28, 2021

Social-distancing scare at Brown’s Town Market

Published:Monday | March 29, 2021 | 12:15 AMCarl Gilchrist /Gleaner Writer
Pastor Peter Chambers (left), who was arrested in a cybercrime investigation surrounding remarks against Prime Minister Andrew Holness, is greeted by persons in the Brown’s Town Market in St Ann on Friday, March 26. Chambers, who has not yet been charged
Pastor Peter Chambers (left), who was arrested in a cybercrime investigation surrounding remarks against Prime Minister Andrew Holness, is greeted by persons in the Brown’s Town Market in St Ann on Friday, March 26. Chambers, who has not yet been charged, says the State has no credible case against him.
Higglers vending on the roadway in front of the Brown’s Town Market, which is undergoing repairs.
Higglers vending on the roadway in front of the Brown’s Town Market, which is undergoing repairs.
Velita Smith, who sells in the Brown’s Town Market in St Ann, said the lockdown deadline on Saturdays should be extended from noon to 
2 p.m.
Velita Smith, who sells in the Brown’s Town Market in St Ann, said the lockdown deadline on Saturdays should be extended from noon to 2 p.m.
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Vendors at the under-repair Brown’s Town Market wary that the three consecutive weekend lockdowns not be effective in slowing the transmission of COVID-19.

Several have expressed fears that the purpose of the lockdowns will be undermined by crowding, thus threatening social distancing at the facility and potentially raising the risk of spread.

In crude numbers, St Ann has the fourth most coronavirus cases, 2,385. Only the highly urbanised population centres of Kingston and St Andrew, St Catherine, and St James have more.

“The lockdown a guh affect me severely, but mi haffi work with it,” said Marie, who has been selling in the market for 21 years.

“But my main concern about the Brown’s Town Market right now is the social distancing, and a lot of the vendors in the market don’t wear masks, and a lot of the buyers don’t wear masks,” Marie told The Gleaner.

“And when everybody on the street, there is no social distancing, everybody is in a cluster,” she added.

Brown’s Town’s streets were jam-packed on Thursday as shoppers swarmed supermarkets, stores, and the market ahead of the lockdown.

Some vendors said they had been displaced onto the streets because of ongoing repairs to the market. Others have been on the streets long before the rehabilitation started, while some have even taken a break until the repairs are completed.

Inside the market on Thursday, there was less congestion than on the street. There, social distancing was easier to practise.

“We all have to wear our mask because we understand what’s going on; make sure everything is ok,” said Patrick Hamilton, a long-time vendor in the market, stretching two decades.

“For the past four, five months business has been bad. The lockdown will affect me very much, but we just have to prepare for it because we know what’s going on,” he said of the lockdown.

“What’s going on” is a record wave of infections stretching back to early February, which has sent nationwide COVID-19 hospitalisations above 400. The positivity rate has consistently ranged between 20 per cent and 42 per cent for weeks.

More than 38,200 people have been infected nationwide since March last year; 570 have died.

Another vendor, Kadian Onfroy, said that she understood the need for the lockdown.

“The Government just have to do what they have to do to secure the people in Jamaica because the corona is going up more and more every day,” she said.

“If it is less sales for me, my life is more to be saved. Life over everything; cyaa put money over nothing, so wi haffi jus’ sacrifice.”

For tomato and juice vendor Velita Smith, the lockdowns will be tough.

She would want the noonday shutdown on Saturday to be pushed back to 2 p.m.

“The people dem money slow, so yuh mostly get a better sale on the weekend, more than inna the week. So, the 12 o’clock lockdown fi di three-week is very bad fi the higgler,” Smith said.