With 15 police officers from the San Fernando City Corporation in quarantine due to COVID-19 and one officer testing positive, the operating times for the San Fernando and Marabella markets have been adjusted.
But the new adjustments are not sitting well with the vendors from the Marabella market, who are calling on Mayor Junia Regrello to rescind the decision.
On Monday, the Marabella vendors were informed that vending on Saturdays was now banned. However, they are now allowed to vend on Sundays from 4 am to 12 noon. The San Fernando vendors meanwhile, were told they could vend on Saturdays but not on Sundays.
Speaking to Guardian Media yesterday, Regrello said they did not have enough manpower to monitor vending at both markets on both days. He said a police officer tested positive for COVID and 15 more officers were put on self-quarantine. With a manpower pool of 30-plus officers, Regrello said it was impossible to have the markets opened on both days.
He noted that officers were needed at the market to ensure customers sanitise and observe all COVID-19 protocols.
“At this point, it is a case of health before profits. We have one person from Marabella dying from COVID-19 and two businesses shut down because of this virus. We have to take all precautions to ensure that people are safe,” he added.
But vendor Agatha Sawh, who delivered a petition to Regrello on Wednesday at City Hall, said the market changes will affect over 200 vendors.
“People suffering. If we do not get to sell on Saturday, the goods will stay on our hands and rot. We cannot sell on a Sunday because by then the goods will get stale,” Sawh said.
She explained that vendors purchase goods on a Thursday and they struggle to get everything sold by Saturday.
But Regrello said up to January this year the Marabella vendors had been selling comfortably on a Sunday and closing on a Saturday and after the first COVID-19 restrictions in March, he allowed them to start selling on a Saturday.
“Everybody suffering in the country right now but we have to think about our health before profit,” he told Sawh.
He assured her that he will take her recommendations back to the council for debate, following which a final decision will be taken.
Vendor Ria Kelawan said the adjustments will cause chaos in the market because most vendors and customers were unaware of the changes.
“We were never consulted, we were never notified,” she added.
She explained that vendors will lose thousands of dollars in goods if they are not allowed to sell on Saturdays.
After a meeting with the council, Regrello said they could not please all the vendors. He said as a compromise the corporation will allow the Marabella vendors to vend from 4 am to 2 pm on Sundays. However, he said the market will be closed on Saturdays while the San Fernando market will close on Sundays and open on a Saturday.
This will enable the corporation to utilise its limited manpower effectively at both places.