By RASHAD ROLLE
Tribune Senior Reporter
A HALF pitcher of water and a few dry goods are all Desmond Taylor has for the seven-day lockdown Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis implemented Monday night.
“I have (some canned) mackerel and a half bag of Mahatma rice, two pack of crackers and some sugar. I guess that's supposed to be sufficient to last seven days,” he told The Tribune Tuesday morning.
The 40-year-old is bracing for a tough week after food stores were shuttered Monday night and all but essential workers were ordered to stay home to slow the spread of COVID-19.
Gene “Sparky” Fountain, 69, said he doesn’t even have toilet paper in his house and doesn’t know how to register with the National Food Distribution Task Force.
“I ate my last can of corned beef, some yellow grits and a piece of avocado yesterday, now I can’t even go out to buy a gallon of water,” he said. “Today is supposed to be National Insurance payday. I’m not allowed to go to the bank to see if they paid me. I have no food, I have no water and normally on my payday is when I go to Solomon’s or Super Value to shop. I am left here and anyone I can call to bring me a roll of toilet paper can’t come out their house to bring it for me.”
Tashana Thompson, a security guard at the Ministry of Education, is worried because getting to food distribution sites so she can feed herself and her three children, including her four-year-old, seems impossible without a car.
“When they called me in July I told a woman if she could move me somewhere close that would be good; she said she’ll get back to me but she never did,” she said. “I have no idea how I could get there and you can’t even come on the road and 311 don’t work. I have one Kraft, one pasta, couple chicken wings, half a bag a rice. That cannot last for seven days with three children and an adult.”
Jenapher Cooper, meanwhile, is already getting acquainted with boiled tap water, though she wonders if it will work for her disabled seven-year-old daughter who requires a feeding tube.
“I called 311 six times this morning but got no response,” the 48-year-old said. “I wanted to ask if it’s okay to travel to Superwash on Carmichael Road to fill up my empty water bottles but someone on Facebook say I could boil the tap water and drink so I’ll have to do that. “One of my four children, my seven-year-old, is disabled and uses a feeding tube so I don’t know if that will work.”
In a year of record unemployment, dashed savings and spoiled hopes, some New Providence residents woke up Tuesday morning to fresh despair as they stared down the sudden seven-day lockdown.
Mr Taylor said he started an 8am to 4.30pm construction job on Monday and did not have time to get groceries.
“I heard rumours of a lockdown because everyone got somebody who know somebody who have an idea of what’s going on but it didn’t dawn on me that it would happen on such short notice,” he said. “Until the prime minister announces it in his address it’s just gossip. He is the only person who makes it official so not until he says it do I believe it. And I just started this job yesterday (Monday), my car isn’t licensed. I have no money so even if I wanted to I couldn’t stock up because the money and the means aren’t there.”
Government officials say privately that earlier notice of the lockdown would have caused a run on stores and gas stations––a counterproductive turn when keeping people physically distant is the priority.
But their rationale is no comfort to people searching for the bare necessities. Mr Taylor said he will seek help through the National Food Distribution Task Force, an entity that was feeding more than 100,000 Bahamians before the lockdown and will likely face a surge in requests.
“I’m a simple man,” he said. “I could come home and make a tuna sandwich, tuna and rice, that kind of thing. Usually I’m able to get things done, clean a yard, wash dishes, make some money. I didn’t want to take from a resource I didn’t need to take from. But now it’s almost like I have no choice (but) to take it. I’m not too proud to ask for assistance. At the same time I know others out there in a worse situation than me, now it seems the only way I could get something to eat and drink is through the government system.”
As a construction worker, Mr Taylor has another problem common to essential workers: getting to and from work when gas stations are closed. He said he typically puts $5 worth of gas in his car when able to, never enough to fill his tank.
“I probably have enough gas to go to work today and come back home,” he said. “To me it almost feels it can’t be legal to deny someone access to basic human rights like food and water, especially if you gave persons no advance warning. I find it baffling and disappointing that a group of men could actually sit down and come to this conclusion. It just can’t be. Not to mention I’m living in an area where I’m renting and I don’t know anyone except the landlord so who am I to see around here for help? If health officials believe denying Bahamians access to food, water and medications is in the best interest of the people then they need to go too. They are creating a problem on top of a problem because you aren’t looking out for my life.”