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Exuma Businesses: We Saw It All Coming

By YOURI KEMP

Tribune Business Reporter

ykemp@tribunemedia.net

Exuma businesses yesterday backed the Government's decision to tighten COVID-19 restrictions on the island with many saying they could "see it coming" due to non-compliance with health protocols.

Caleb Rolle Sr, owner/operator of Rolle’s Air Conditioning, told Tribune Business: “You know I feel really good about it. Really, really good because the people just do not listen. They don’t listen and when it comes upon them they make noise. When you don’t listen you have to feel, and right now with the way this virus is rising.......

"They want to have the Fish Fry open to go and party. The man said to lock down, but they are down there partying on their boats and they go down to these private cays and party. I feel the lockdown is excellent. The Prime Minister is doing a wonderful job and, as hard as he is trying, everybody wants to run the country but we have already elected him and put him there. Let him run the country.

Mr Rolle added of the tougher measures: “It’s having an impact on my business but I am going to survive. What’s the sense of having a business and everybody is laying up in the hospital? It has an impact on my business, but what’s more important? Our health or our money? The money you can always get back, but your health you should always put as first priority after God.”

Ricardo Morley, owner/operator of Shop Rite Mart, added: “Business is ticking right along in Exuma. Everybody is orderly and shopping orderly, and doing social distancing. There is no harm. Everybody is in tune with what’s happening now so they are adjusting pretty good.

"Really I had seen this lockdown coming. I knew we had a lot of problems with our Fish Fry down here. I knew the Government didn’t want to speak to it but basically everybody on the island knew what the situation was, and they could have seen it coming. It was that same Fish Fry. The people are taking it in stride and they hope everybody learns from this."

The Government has imposed 24-hour weekend curfews, beginning at 6pm on Friday and ending at 5am on Monday, in a bid to reduce Exuma's COVID-19 infection rate. During this period all commercial activity has to cease, but all businesses may continue operating as normal during the week apart from the Fish Fry, bars and restaurants that serve alcohol.

O'Brian Strachan, owner/operator of Strachan’s Service Station, said: “It could be rough, but it is needed as the cases continue to rise. Even though we are just beginning to open up we have to shut back down, but it is what it is and in order to get it down we have to lock down. It isn’t getting any better.

“It may be hard, but I think it has to be done. The only thing now is as soon as the tourists begin to come in we’re locked down, because here it is now. We’re on lockdown and, right now, I’m about to pick up some tourists off of a tour and I have to get them back to the hotel before 5pm. So I’m in a rush.

"The service station is holding its own. Folks can move about and all they need is the opportunity to move about. The service station is moving along. I don’t think the lockdown affects the service station that drastically, because what people are going to do is that they are going to get their fuel today for the weekend and who knows where they are going? But they will have fuel in their car.”

Ramon Darville, general manager of Darville Lumber, said: “Honestly, it [the new restrictions] just started on Thursday and I could have seen it coming. I knew it was going to happen sooner or later. The number of cases they are reporting, people think it’s a joke.

"They have COVID ambassadors running around here, but they are normal government workers. For our business, business is slow right now. There are not a lot of visitors on the island, and there is not a lot going on in Exuma.

Suggesting that this was the perfect time to tighten restrictions and contain COVID-19 before the Christmas season, Mr Darville said: “People are not listening. They are not wearing masks, they are not social distancing.

“While business is down, it does not start to pick up until after American Thanksgiving and I don’t see it picking up much this year. A lot of people don’t want to go through all of this COVID testing and quarantines. Now they cut the quarantine out, but it was a hassle coming here. To come here and stay locked down for 14 days, that was your entire visit."

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