NASSAU, BAHAMAS – While thousands of Bahamian residents have been ordered to stay home in efforts to prevent the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19), essential workers canvassed yesterday said they are relieved to still be employed.
Sharrhan Smith, 22, has been a gas station attendant for nearly a year.
“I’m just happy to have a job, having a little boy and still being able to take care of him,” she told Eyewitness News as she barricaded the entrance to the station just before 5pm.
“Honestly, it’s still a little rough, because you never know dealing with everybody and everything coming in and out but at least some things still open, some people have the opportunity to provide.”
Smith said attendants are now mandated to wear gloves and encouraged to continue washing their hands and sanitizing as they deal with money and customers.
And while masks are available, she said they are optional.
Gabriel Meme has owned a small water depot on Fox Hill for nearly 12 years.
He said in the past few weeks his business has increased as people stock up on water, mini propane gas and other household items he sells.
He noted that while it is unfortunate that so many businesses were impacted, “life is very important”.
“We thought we always need money and money is everything, but the past couple of days and what we hearing around the world, it clearly shows money is not everything,” Meme added.
“We have to preserve life the best that we can.
“Everyone should stay home and the people that are on the street, get what you need and go back in to keep this COVID-19 thing to a small limit.”
Meanwhile, as dining-in restaurants are closed and only takeout has been permitted, many more people have been flocking to fast food drive-thrus – now deemed an essential service.
One Popeyes cashier echoed, “I feel privileged because a lot of people don’t have jobs.”
On January 24, the government implemented a nationwide lockdown and ordered all businesses, establishments and offices, including the public service, to allow their employees to work from home.
Businesses that are unable to operate remotely were ordered to cease operations.
The measure however does not apply to essential workers and essential businesses and services.
Yesterday, after pushback from different sectors over who qualified as an essential worker, the government expanded its list to include electronic and technical services; farming; horticulture; agriculture; and fisheries resource; legal services; property management and maintenance; and car rentals.
Other essential workers and businesses include, groceries and non-alcoholic beverages delivery service, janitorial, pool maintenance, funeral homes and cemeteries, industrial manufacturers, non-profits, churches, civic organizations, diplomatic cooperation and security services.
While hotels were also exempt from the measures, major local resorts including Baha Mar, Atlantis, and Breezes have suspended services and sent employees home.
Atlantis announced yesterday that it will extend its closure of the resort through May 15.
A few employees could be seen carrying care packages – inclusive of perishable items given to them by the resort.
Eyewitness News understands only a skeleton crew remains at the resort, including a few cashiers, securities workers who are on five days and some cooks who are on three days to service some 40 guests.
Some of those employees said they are working less than 5 hours.
One Atlantis employee, who asked not to be identified, described the hotel as a “ghost town”.
She said she has been a hotelier for more than 15 years and has never seen anything like this.
“It’s very sad that so many people have to be home without a job,” she said
“…It’s a sad day. When you go into the hotel it feels like a ghost staff”
As for the future of her job, she said, “I hope they find a cure. I hope this pandemic that’s happening comes to an end because it’s really hard. It’s hard for all of us.”
Clifford, a security officer at Atlantis said he also feels “lucky” to still have his job.
His colleague Kareem said: “You only could do what you gotta do…You just gotta hold your head up.”