(St. Lucia News Online) — *Jon West got a big surprise when he turned up at the Massy Stores Supermarket in Rodney Heights, Gros Islet at 5:30 this morning and saw a long line of people. He thought he would have been the first, or among the first of few, considering that the islandwide COVID-19-response curfew ends at 5 a.m.
West described the scenario as “crazy”. (See amateur video clips below story)
Since the government adjusted the curfew from 24 hours to 10 hours (now 5 a.m. to 7 p.m.), thousands of people have turned out to shop, creating congestion at the supermarkets and putting challenges on the government’s aim to achieve social distancing, in its fight to stop the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus.
“This is the supermarket, lines already to the back at 5:30. Crazy!” he pointed out, again.
Massy Stories Supermarkets are scheduled to open at 7 a.m. for seniors (60 and over), the differently-abled and essential service providers, and 8:15 a.m. for the public, according to the company’s official Facebook page.
Massy Stories Mega and Gourmet will open from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. to everyone. Pharmacies will be open during store hours.
Customers are required to wear face masks to enter all Massy Store locations.
West told St. Lucia News Online that the supermarkets should be allowed to open every day during the shutdown.
“This is Rodney Heights. Rodney Bay is worse. This is crazy. I don’t see why they can’t allow supermarkets to stay open during the shutdown. They need to more be afraid that people don’t start to bum-rush these supermarkets. People have already started robbing those goods vans,” he said.
A politician has also recommended that the government consider opening supermarkets daily so as to prevent overcrowding which can cause the spread of the virus.
“We must ensure that we do not defeat the purpose of quarantine/curfew by inadvertently encouraging clustering outside the various shopping areas,” said Therold Prudent, former Lucian Peoples Movement political party leader.
He explained: “For the purpose of crowd control, perhaps the authorities may wish to set a long-term policy instead which allows supermarkets, etc. to be open daily from Monday to Friday, with closure at 5 p.m. Such a policy may reduce the number of shoppers who come out on any given day while enabling all shoppers to be back at home for the mandated curfew which starts at 7 p.m. I remain very supportive of the government’s efforts in the fight against the spread of COVID-19, and hopefully, on this one, some adjustments can be made.”
Meanwhile, on social media, several persons have reacted with shock that a long line was already at the supermarkets, two hours before the stores open to the public.
“Clearly people broke the curfew to get to supermarket! Long a– lines already,” someone wrote on Facebook.
Prime Minister Allen Chastanet relaxed the 24-hour curfew from Tuesday, April 7, 2020 to allow persons the opportunity to purchase items — food, medication, petrol, cooking gas — do banking and a few other “scaled-down services”.
In a Facebook post, the prime minister encouraged the public to remain within the prescribed zones and follow the following protocols in public, particularly when shopping.
– Wear a mask when in public
– Practice social distancing in and outside of shops
– Only shuttles to and from community shops allowed
– Only 2 people allowed in a vehicle within the zones
– Purchase at your nearest community shop
He said self-quarantine measures remain in effect and reminded that “the police will enforce these measures!”
* Name changed to protect the identity of the news source