By LEANDRA ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
ABACO residents yesterday blasted the government’s decision to reimpose a weekend lockdown for the island due to high COVID-19 cases there, saying the new restrictions will be “devastating” for the economy and rebuilding efforts.
“Honestly, I am almost to tears,” said one resident, who only wanted to be identified as Mrs Clarke. “Like seriously, that’s how hurt I am about this entire thing. I am all anti-COVID, trust me. I wear my mask, I walk around with hand sanitizer as well as a bottle of alcohol.
“But still at the end of the day, we’re still in the process of rebuilding… the weekend is when we go to our home and try to get work done because some of us are at the mercies of waiting for skilled professionals to come to our homes to help us get work done on their time off.”
Her comments were echoed by many residents yesterday, who said the issue is not the stricter curfew hours, but rather the weekend lockdowns, which will hamper Dorian restoration efforts.
The situation is also compounded by the fact that many Abaco residents are still living in homes or structures without electricity and consistent running water.
This has forced many to rely on grocery stores and restaurants for their daily food due to limited resources.
“These people are still at the mercies of going to the food stores every single day in order to be able to eat in the night. They still have to go to the gas stations every night in order to put gas inside their generator,” Mrs Clarke told The Tribune.
“So it’s like the gas stations and the food stores are always packed simply because people are eating and trying to survive by the day. We can’t go three days without being able to get the necessities that we need to survive and it’s bull---- to say that we can go to the food store between today and Friday.
“Because whatever it is you buy today you need that for tonight. Whatever you buy in the morning, you need that for that night so come Saturday morning, what are people supposed to feed their children? They have no refrigerators to keep food and coolers can only keep it for so long.”
Her comments came hours after Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis set out new restrictions for Abaco and New Providence, including a weekend lockdown and stricter curfew hours because of rising COVID cases in the community.
During the 24-hour weekend lockdowns, food stores, pharmacies, gas stations, construction sites and laundromats are prohibited from opening. No social gatherings will be permitted but one hour of church worship is allowed.
However, some say the new restrictions could have been avoided if law enforcement officers on Abaco had been enforcing the current COVID-19 orders.
Roscoe Thompson, chairman of the Marsh Harbour/Spring City Town Council, said while he agrees that everyone must play their part in helping to defeat the virus, he also believes police also should have been doing more.
“Yes, the people have to take responsibility in wearing masks but the unfortunate thing over here is, but the catch 22, is the police aren’t doing their job,” he told this newspaper yesterday.
“When they shut down Freeport for two weeks, the police were everywhere but here, just in the evening they do their roadblock at 10.30 but during the day, you have 40 to 50 people hanging out at one bar and no one wearing a mask.
“I don’t have a problem with the curfews…and I don’t blame the police but they’re not taking their responsibility for their part in all of this.”
Dale Hill, another resident, also cited lack of policing as the reason why cases on Abaco are on the rise.
Mr Hill said he believes government officials should have just placed more restrictions on bars and local hang outs, which often attract large gatherings, instead of on all establishments in the community.
“A weekend lockdown is only going to lengthen the lines,” he said. “The only thing you could do is let life go on as normal and just practice the normal rules but the bars that have been over here have been open all hours of the night. That’s been the biggest issue here.”
In addition to these concerns, parents there are also worried how their students will continue their studies at home without learning devices and consistent electricity.
Before the Prime Minister’s announcement, several private institutions had already resumed in school operations, with limited numbers of students in classrooms. However, now, all schools will have to resort to virtual learning methods.
“Months ago, when we were getting to go back into the school year, I said why isn’t Social Services spearheaded by the government is not appealing to residents that have kids to come in and register so that they can know exactly what the situation is on the island before it’s time for school to start,” Mrs Clarke told The Tribune.
“People don’t have these devices and I’m sure people will say all students have cell phones but you can’t expect them to learn off a cell phone and honestly, power here is not consistent. It’s almost non-existent.”
It is not clear when the restrictions will be lifted for Abaco and New Providence, with Dr Minnis only saying the matter would all depend on an improvement of the current COVID situation on those islands. The new rules go into effect Friday at 7pm.