Shoppers out in droves as curfew loomed

Adolpho Gomez, right, wearing a mask, waits in line to enter the Foster's supermarket in West Bay. - Photo: Kevin Morales

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Adolpho Gomez had braved the sun and heat for this long, so what’s a bit longer to grab the essentials.

“I’ve been waiting in line now for maybe 20, 25 minutes,” said Gomez, one of roughly 100 people waiting outside Foster’s West Bay location in a line that stretched from the doors to the adjacent sidewalk, down to West Bay Road, and then snaked around the curve near The Old Homestead.

Scores of shoppers across Cayman flocked to retail stores following Premier Alden McLaughlin’s announcement Wednesday that government was implementing a 24-hour curfew from 7pm Wednesday until 5am Saturday, forcing the closure of most businesses, including grocery stores. The announcement was the latest in a line of measures taken by government over the past 10 days to combat the spread of COVID-19.

“I totally agree with it,” Gomez said of the lockdown. “I think it’s necessary. I think it’s something that has to be done in order for us to contain this virus. I just wished that the majority of us would abide by it.”

A long line of customers outside Foster’s in West Bay on Wednesday afternoon soon after Premier Alden McLaughlin announced a 24-hour curfew beginning Wednesday at 7pm and continuing until 5am on Saturday. – Photo: Kevin Morales

With retailers adhering to restrictions on the number of customers allowed inside stores at any given time, long lines greeted many of those who flocked to stores looking to stock up on goods before the 58-hour lockdown began.

Further down the line than Gomez, Tyris General said he was watching government’s daily coronavirus press conference and decided to head out following the days-long curfew announcement.

“I went shopping two days ago, but I bought a whole bunch of tuna and then got to the house and realised I forgot to get mayo. So I’m like, ‘I got to go back,’” General said. “And I figured that come Saturday morning, when they opened back up, it’s going to be a mad house.”

General had been in line for only five minutes and was happy with the speed with which it was moving. While he admits the restrictions are inconvenient – after all, it’s not every day it may take an hour to even get into the grocery store – he also agrees they’re necessary.

“It’s actually benefiting me,” General said. “I haven’t had a beer in 17 days, actually. [I] picked up a book that I started a year ago, picked it up last night and started reading it. Working out twice a day at the home.”

The long lines caught no one by surprise.

Police Commissioner Derek Byrne said during Wednesday’s press conference that police would have an increased presence at supermarkets and gas stations, as well just more officers on general patrol during the lockdown.

Governor Martyn Roper urged residents to take a measured approach to their shopping.

“I would just urge everybody to be sensible about how and when they need to go to the supermarket,” Roper said. “There is no need for panic buying.”

While the line was long, the scene was calm outside Foster’s, where at least one RCIPS officer watched over the crowd.

Government originally had planned for a shelter-in-place order with exceptions for essential workers. Those plans were scrapped, however, after roughly 850 requests for exemptions, totalling 20,000 workers, were received.

“People are dying,” said General. “They’re like by the hundreds every day. So, for me to stay inside a couple of days, it’s cool.”

Additional reporting by Andrel Harris

Full coverage: Coronavirus

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  1. Premier McLaughlin has my 100% support for putting lives before profits.

    However there is a stark difference between the financial pressure on our civil service employees and those in the private sector.

    Many civil servants such as teachers are in fact “enjoying ” a vacation on full pay. Whereas the maid, dive instructor, hairdresser who quite rightly should not be working, have nothing to live on.

    My suggestion: Reduce all civil service pay by 25%, except for healthcare workers who deserve a bonus, and use that saved money to pay all low income workers, both Caymanians and work permit holders, $100 per week so that at least they can buy groceries.