By YOURI KEMP
Tribune Business Reporter
Family Island businesses yesterday backed the government’s emergency nationwide COVID-19 lockdown as essential to protecting their communities despite the economic cost.
Ned Mulford, owner of Cat Island’s Pigeon Cay Beach Club, told Tribune Business that a coronavirus outbreak was “the last thing” Cat Island needed. With his property having already suffered a 90 percent cancellation rate, he decided not to burden the island with visitors who may potentially be infected.
“It’s too bad that I needed a break, but I don’t like the circumstances,” Mr Mulford said. “I don’t think anyone wants to take a chance.” He added that he was a “little upset” with National Insurance Board (NIB) bureaucracy surrounding unemployment benefits for temporarily laid-off staff, and said: “It puts a little more pressure on me because I have to walk through the process with them.
“But this is the first time something like this has happened, and we have been here for 25 years. They have never filed with unemployment. Parameters for national insurance really only quantify for bigger businesses, so the criteria for me qualifying - because my staff does not get 40 hours a week or 50 weeks per year - is a little difficult.”
Mr Mulford continued: “There is also an issue with getting our B81 unemployment card from the Department of Labour, because in order to get unemployment benefits from NIB I would need to have this unemployment card from the Department of Labour and, being on a Family Island, this is proving to be near impossible.”
Expressing concern about the lack of vigilance over vacation rental homes, he said: “There are a few private homes that have guests in them, and the homeowners acted irresponsibly to allow these persons to come in. It is pretty bad for them to have done that. I saw they had a guest walking down the street yesterday; I don’t think that was in good taste at all.”
“The people here are self-sufficient and happy here with their lives. We may have to dip into our own pockets for a little to help them. We spent as much as we did for Hurricane Irene as we have done for this coronavirus outbreak.”
Mr Mulford also challenged the government’s decision to close liquor stores, saying: “With the liquor stores I think the owners just have to be prudent and exercise proper vigilance with letting people in or out, as there really is no difference between them and the grocery stores.
“The services can’t just stop on the dime like that. The prime minister is doing the best he can, but I hope we don’t get any more cases. It does not need to get out of hand in Cat Island, but I think he is taking the right steps.”
Dennis Adderley, Andros Distributors’ general manager, told Tribune Business: “We are on lockdown. Persons are obeying the emergency order and Andros is coping. I have physical barricades so persons don’t get so close, and if persons come to the store I make them wait if need be.
“But my store is pretty large, probably is the largest in Andros. My store is about 1,800 square feet so there is a lot of space for customers to move around. I speak with the nurse frequently, and they told me that they haven’t seen anything yet. In the island we are kind of laid back and it shouldn’t be that difficult for us to deal with this emergency order.”
Mr Adderley added: “The freight boat came in and people are concerned with it stopping. We don’t want it to stop the food supply from flowing, but so far that is not happening. We had a boat that came in to Fresh Creek yesterday, and even when we go to the dock we have to practice social distancing even though no persons came on the boat other than the supplies.
“From what I can see it is not going away any time soon. But I hope they can get some type of control over it, and I hope that they create some sort of vaccine so if you do come in contact with it then you can be cured. But I give it a year before the world powers can get a vaccine. It is almost like a global catastrophic event, like getting hit with a meteor, and it is affecting the public on that level.”
“In Andros we have a lot of wide open areas, and one of the things in Fresh Creek is we don’t congregate like we used to on Sunday night. We are only into this a week, and it is unfortunate the events with the beach party that happened in Nassau caused more strain on everyone else,” Mr Adderley continued.
“That is just really irresponsible. I don’t foresee anything like that happening in Andros. Everyone is really aware of our surroundings, and we know as Androsians if COVID-19 hits Andros we cannot deal with it as we have to send people to Nassau for medical assistance.”