Monday morning buzz missing in HWT as people return to work

ONLY a smattering of commuters were seen at the Half-Way-Tree Transportation Centre in the Corporate Area yesterday morning, warily making their way about amidst the lifting of work-from-home measures introduced by the Government in March as part of efforts to stem the tide of the COVID-19 pandemic.

An employee of the Jamaica Urban Transit Company, who spoke to the Jamaica Observer on condition of anonymity, said the early morning scene was nothing like the Mondays of pre-COVID-19 times, despite individuals largely being expected to return to their workplaces yesterday.

“On a normal day it would be buzzing with a lot more activity, more buses coming in; school is out so that adds to it as well. So school would have been in, so with both adults and children it would be more chaotic. This is probably like a Saturday morning built up, not a Monday morning,” she told the Observer while looking at the scanty platforms inside the transport centre.

For the most part, every individual the Observer saw wore a face covering of some sort, with some trying to adhere to the physical distancing rules and others more concerned about getting to their destinations.

“We have been coping with the situation, trying to do our best under the circumstances, but I am really hoping this will subside in another month or so because this is really frustrating now — both personally and professionally,” she said.

One patient care worker employed to Kingston Public Hospital, who was among the sparse group inside the transport centre, told the Observer that despite having to face some amount of discrimination, she has been coping.

“A lot of people are afraid, scared, sceptic[al]. They tend sometimes to move from you if they see you or they tend to say, ‘I don’t want to sit there or stand there’. So people are afraid and moving away from you as a health worker, but I don’t really let it bother me because it protects me. Because you see, you don’t really know who have it, so when they move from you it’s best for you,” she said.

Noting that the stay-at-home and work-from-home measures had never applied to her, the masked woman, who said she has been working in the health sector for 10 years, said she had no real fear of contracting the virus.

“I have never seen anything like this [but] I am not that fearful; I trust the Lord. I pray for myself, I pray for others, and hope this thing will be over soon. But as the word in the Bible of the plagues in the days of old, so it shall be in the end. As a Christian you know you have to hope but there is much more things to come; you just have to trust the Lord and move on,” the mother of four told the Observer.

She, however, noted that although employed to the hospital, she had had no contact with COVID-19 patients.

“They are in a cluster from us — there are persons designated to go to that area so you don’t have to encounter those persons,” she explained.

A 10-day-old baby boy in the company of his mother was among those using the services of the JUTC yesterday.

“This is the first time I am going out with him,” his mother told the Observer quietly.

She confessed that while she had her fears, she had no choice as she needed to visit Victoria Jubilee Hospital in downtown Kingston to get her Caesarean section wound assessed.

“Mi nuh feel really comfortable driving with him like that in the bus. I had him last week Saturday,” she said.

Delivering a child during COVID-19, she said, was far different from her other three deliveries.

“At the hospital they were very strict and we had to distance [ourselves],” she shared.

The last leg of her pregnancy, she said, was also fraught with tension.

“I felt frettish, uncomfortable, because I [didn’t[ know who have it. They tested me — everything came out okay — [but] I fretted a lot because I talked to persons and persons came around me without masks and so on, so I didn’t know,” she recounted.

Police Inspector Mark Anderson, who is assigned to the St Andrew Central Police Division, speaking to the Observer yesterday, said the less than optimal numbers of commuters was proof that many individuals are not braving the workplace just yet.

“I think a lot of persons are still working from home. My son works at Jamaica National and he is still working from home. I don’t think [persons are returning] fully,” he said, in explaining the scanty platforms.

The lawman said he was of the opinion that the virus is a bigger enemy than the crime he is sworn to fight.

“Nobody in the world has ever seen anything like this. For me, it has been the worst thing I have ever seen in terms of how it affects the economy and everything. Crime affects it yes, but not like this,” he said.

Anderson said the police, too, have had to change their tune due to the virus.

“Just like everyone else, we wear our masks, we sanitise ourselves, and all of that. We are issued with sanitisers and masks; just like everyone else we have to be careful. It’s not fear, but we have to be careful dealing with people such as searching people and all of that — we have to be careful. First time we would just search without the use of a gloves, but now when we are searching persons we have to use gloves. We are still vigilant, but just like everyone else we have to be careful,” he pointed out.

One female vendor, who was en route to downtown Kingston for the first time in three months, said her depleting finances had forced her to stifle her fears and return to work.

“I sell on the roadside. I break from February. I haven’t been going because I was scared of going out,” the mother of two, who said she has been vending for about six years, told the Observer.

However, she noted that she felt less fearful “because [of] having my mask and sanitising, and [I] keep social distancing”.

In the meantime, a 54-year-old female vendor who has been selling in the Half-Way-Tree area for more than 25 years told the Observer that she was hoping business would resurge in the days to come.

“It [business] was slow,” she said, adding that she did not obey the stay-at-home orders.

“No sah! Stay home fi wah, Miss? Mi have mi bills dem fi pay so mi can’t stay home. Ah don’t feel corona[virus] is for me,” she said, explaining her lack of fear.

The vendor, who said she was a representative for other sellers in the area, said they had all been feeling the pinch from less business activity.

“Everybody was crying that it is real slow, nothing much wasn’t going on, so I don’t know if like how the people are out more today if it will pick up. I am here for more than 25 years; sometime it slow but never like this. Mi [turn] 54 Friday gone and mi never si nutten like dis yet,” she declared.

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