By YOURI KEMP
Tribune Business Reporter
Some Exuma businesses yesterday revealed that the island's recent COVID-19 restrictions have cost them thousands of dollars prior to this week's easing.
O'Brian Strachan, owner/operator of Strachan's Service Station, said no visitors had wanted to travel to the island while it was under a weekend lockdown and early evening curfews during the week. He added: “I had a client who wanted to come in for ten days. Because of the weekend lockdown, they cancelled 10 days in a hotel. So that’s ten days in a hotel gone.
“I had a boat charter for two days, that was another $6,000 I lost. So if you look at it, if two people were willing to spend roughly $12,000 for 10 days, if I had ten people that all cancelled like those two, can you imagine what I have lost?
"I hope now that after a few weeks, and we get the word out, that people will start to come, but I think the removal of some of the restrictions is a step in the right direction.”
The Prime Minister on Monday lifted the weekend lockdown for Exuma, and narrowed the daily curfews to between 10pm to 5am in a bid to prevent social gatherings and parties that trigger a fresh COVID-19 wave.
However, the island's Fish Fry destination remains closed, while restaurants have been permitted to offer outdoor dining only. Restrictions on the size of gatherings at weddings, funerals, church services and receptions also remain in place.
Ricardo Morley, Shop Rite Mart's owner/operator, noted that the daily curfew remains in place despite the start date having been pushed back to 10pm. He added: “As far as the lockdown was concerned, we've faired pretty good. The stores have been functioning. The people for the most part have been abiding by the protocols, doing their social distancing and wearing their masks, and we had no problems maintaining an order."
Mr Morley said commerce would be little impacted by the change in curfew hours because it "never stopped". He added: "Ten o'clock now would make it even better for us because then we don't have to have everybody rushing around for the five o'clock lockdown on the weekend. It will spread out the activity and people will have more leeway.”
Ramon Darville, Darville Lumber's general manager, agreed that it made sense to keep bars and the Fish Fry closed otherwise “people will not stop gathering and they won’t stop partying".
“It's nice to be able to, you know, leave your house until 10pm at night, but when you have people gathering there is very little that one can do," he added. "I don't think they should open up the bars. I'm sorry. I know people need to socialise, but I don't think things will work like that.
“I'd like to be able to go out in the boat on the weekends and stuff like that. I have children that came down that don't come here often, and only once a year, and I haven't been able to really do anything with them. But I don't mind because we could find stuff to do at home.”
Mr Darville said the lack of COVID-19 testing on-island made him feel uneasy over whether case numbers have actually gone down.
"You don't hear too much from the Government on it," he added. "You don't know what's going on. I know in our company what we do is once a week we have a paper made up that has all the main symptoms of COVID-19. We were on each staff member, and had them answer the questions truthfully” to ensure they were not carrying the virus.