LIVE: For the latest updates on the coronavirus, follow our live blog.
“It’s very rough, it’s very hard.”
This has been the refrain for many tour operators who are now feeling the pinch as the Cayman goes into lockdown mode in mere days.
Brian Barnes is among the hundreds of taxi, bus and tour operators hurting from key steps taken by government to slow and suppress any spread of the COVID-19 virus.
While he says he’s feeling the pain in his pocket, he knows the steps taken are in the interest of all of Cayman’s people.
“At least when it come to the slow season, you know what to expect. But this is the height of the busy season, when you make some money to put aside for the slow season,” he told the Cayman Compass Thursday.
On Wednesday, Premier Alden McLaughlin announced a one-off $600 stipend to assist taxi operators, like Barnes, to ride out the coming hard times as the country’s borders remain closed to visitors.
The $600 stipend applies only to Caymanian bus, taxi and water-sports operators, to cover the month of the airport closure.
McLaughlin said government would reach out to everyone on the list of licensed operators.
“These are all licensed operators, so we know who they are, we know their names, we have their contact numbers, so they don’t need to do anything at all in terms of applying,” the premier said.
He did not, however, have on hand the exact number of Caymanians who meet the criteria.
Barnes welcomed the incentive, saying, “It’s better than nothing.”
“I’ve got bills, too. I’ve got a family. I’ve got rent to pay and mortgages and commitments to pay. … What the government is giving, I am thankful for it. The government didn’t have to do nothing at the time,” Barnes said.
Barnes said he was exploring his options at the moment and will be looking at restaurants that have now been restricted to delivery only.
“I just need to get a list of who’s open, who’s gonna do the take-out delivery. I’ve got to do something, it’s better than doing nothing. All I can do is just try my best to stay afloat for the next few weeks because although this lockdown is only for two or three weeks, it may go longer, and then it can take a while for everybody to get back into full gear. By then, God knows, the season may be done,” Barnes said.
If that doesn’t pan out, Barnes said, “I have a lot of turtle meat in my freezer I was building up for the Lion’s [Club] breakfast. I might have to turn to that and cook it, advertise some turtle sales and cook, sell and deliver to make some revenue.”
Full coverage: Coronavirus