‘People need bread!’ Portmore shoppers vent

Half-past midday yesterday, Portmore residents were still waiting in long lines at supermarkets, wholesale stores and corner shops, even as some food items were already running short, signalling trouble for the people who, based on new COVID-19 measures outlined by the Government, would be allowed to stock their kitchen cupboards in the second wave of shopping before the 5:00 pm cut-off time mandated under the St Catherine lockdown.

“There is no bread!” was the announcement that greeted shoppers standing outside Audjer Wholesale and Retail store at Pines Plaza where the Jamaica Observer stopped to talk with residents. The announcement came from a worker at the store who was seen manning the entrance.

“Wi order bread yesterday and it finish yesterday after di announcement [of the lockdown]. Inna di night yesterday people come shop. People need bread,” said the man, who declined to give his name.

Sugar and eggs were also running short, triggering more frustration among people in line. The same was true at another wholesale in the same plaza, where people were standing in line: No bread.

Attempts to speak with the store owners proved futile as they and their employees were busy taking orders. However, shoppers who spoke with the Observer complained that they had been waiting in line way too long.

“The store owners are not organised,” one woman, who said she had been waiting for two hours, complained.

“They know di situation, so even before di prime minister announce di lockdown, dem should a stock up already.”

Another shopper standing close by said that she, too, had been waiting for over an hour.

“Mi out here almost two hours now and I have to go to di pharmacy,” said the woman.

On the issue of the lockdown, people complained that the announcement came suddenly and that not enough time was allotted on the mandated shopping days — Wednesday and Saturday — to stock up on grocery and medication.

“The prime minister didn’t give us enough time to prepare and now it look like I’m going to have to go home without getting everything because we don’t have enough time,” said one woman.

One man admitted that he was not following the Government’s instructions for people to shop in order of surnames, since, according to him, “I think the time is too short for people to shop. The naming t’ing only taking up more time,” he said.

Another woman argued that people should shop on different days.

“I understand why the Government have to do it, but my only problem is with the time limit. It is not enough. Why limit the time that people can shop? Everybody is going to rush out. I think they should have a different day for persons to shop. Not the same day for everybody,” said the woman.

Valrene Bennett, a mother who had come out with her three teenage sons in tow, said she would have to go shopping again on Saturday since she could not get everything on her list.

“I am shopping for three boys, plus I have my 80- year-old father at home and I didn’t get everything,” said Bennett.

“Wi feel like prisoner but wi just haffi work wid it.”

Konata Beluchi, a father waiting in line, argued that the lockdown and restriction of movement breached people’s civil rights.

“This is just frustrating. We are just coming out of a 3:00 pm curfew on the weekend, now this. How much more can people take?” he fumed.

“I’m not saying the Government should not take measures, but couldn’t it be done a better way? Why not just lock down Portmore instead of the whole of St Catherine? You are restricting people and taking away people civil rights,” Beluchi argued.

Meanwhile, some residents of Eltham Park in the parish said they had no problem with the seven-day lockdown, but wished for more time to purchase groceries and other items.

“Me nuh have no problem wid it. Only thing I think needs adjustment is like di opening hours for the supermarkets and pharmacies ’cause nuff people live hand-to-mouth,” said a woman who was seen waiting to enter Shopper’s Fair Supermarket.

“Is not everybody can come out on the two days dem (Government) state, so if dem could maybe even make the supermarkets open half-day, that wouldn’t be so bad. Otherwise from that, me a work wid it, ’cause the virus dangerous,” she said.

Another resident interjected: “Andrew a work and we welcome the curfew, but him shoulda take precautions earlier, though. Mi think him shoulda close the borders earlier ’cause you see dem New York flight deh, dem cause this. That is what I don’t like so far.”

Two other residents — Samantha Gayle and Mennard Grant — shared similar sentiments.

“Mi haffi work wid it. Andrew a work. Mi jus’ haffi work wid it ’cause COVID deadly,” Gayle said.

Added Grant: “The only problem I have is how sudden it was. I wouldn’t mind a day or two days’ notice. But, then again, they are allowing us to come out on two days. Mi jus’ a work wid it. That alone we can do.”

Throughout the morning, management at several supermarkets appealed to residents to follow the instructions outlined by the Government in order to prevent chaos. The appeal came after residents engaged in a brawl at the entrance of at least two supermarkets.

“This morning, persons didn’t want to let in the senior citizens as the Government outlined. Those who are not senior citizens came very early and would not allow anyone to get in. We had to call Hawkeye and Marksman for extra security. Marksman had to send in two extra guards for us to get the situation under control and we have two supervisors outside to ensure that persons are entering based on their last names,” a supervisor at a Shopper’s Fair location said.

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