By YOURI KEMP
Tribune Business Reporter
Eleuthera's private sector “caught hell” but is ready to move beyond weekend lockdowns and tight curfews after the Prime Minister announced an easing to the island's COVID-19 restrictions.
Christopher Cates, the Lumber Shed's owner, told Tribune Business: “I think we're definitely ready. I think our numbers are down. I think the community understands the implications of going backwards with our [infection] numbers, and I think that everybody is clearly intent.
"The message we received was loud and clear. We needed to cut down in order to get the numbers under control. I think it's a relief for us to do the 10pm [curfew], and it's wonderful to know that we're making progress.
"With international travel opening up, this is going to be an excellent time for the easing of the restrictions. Bahamasair starts flying into the island on Wednesday [today], and they're going to be coming in three days a week, so I guess we just need to play it out and see where it goes.”
Dr Hubert Minnis said restrictions imposed on Eleuthera on November 9, in a bid to combat a surge in COVID-19 infections, will be eased due to a decline in cases. With the exception of Spanish Wells and Harbour Island, Eleuthera had been subjected to a 24-hour weekend lockdown, 6pm weekday curfew and border closures.
Thomas Sands, Eleuthera's Chamber of Commerce president, declined to comment when contacted by Tribune Business as he was still awaiting written confirmation on the adjustments and new measures that Eleuthera will face.
However, Jermaine Cancino, general manager of Lutra Pure, questioned the lockdown's logic. "I don't think that we should have been on the curfew for so long," he said, given the economic impact which forced him to furlough some staff.
He added: “At the end of the day, 5pm, people are getting off of work, struggling and rushing trying to get things done. They really put a real damper on business on the island. But luckily the restrictions have been lifted.”
Victor Russell, owner/operator of Smart Roofing, said that while he was “glad” the restrictions were lifted and the curfew time changed to 10pm, he does not expect much on the island to change. He added: "I think it will be the smaller retailers that will be impacted most by the change in the curfew.
"A lot of times you get off work at 5pm and you can't even get close to some places, because by the time you get off of work they are closed. That's what's been happening to me. Even right now I need to buy a couple pair of pants, but I was working and cannot get off in time.
"I could have hoped for Sunday shopping before the weekend lockdown, but now that it is back and the curfew is lifted, this would help me a great deal.”