Hundreds of citizens yesterday seemed to disregard Government’s ‘Stay-at-Home’ and social distancing orders as they flocked to various venues to conduct activity on day two of the drive to fight of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).
Port-of-Spain seemed as bustling and vibrant as any other workday as members of the public rushed to Central Bank to change their old $100 bills for new ones, to commercial banks to deposit and change pay cheques and to the Treasury to collect cheques.
TTPost offices were also overrun by those hoping to collect their pension and social development grants as the COVID-19 pandemic caused significant panic buying at supermarkets last week and into the weekend, leaving many feeling that supermarket stocks would run out.
And although the T&T Supermarkets’ Association has said there are currently no shortages, those outside the TTPost St Vincent Street office yesterday were anxious and worried.
“We just want to go in the grocery before everything done,” one woman who did not want to be named said. “Just give we the cheques, let we go.”
The group of about 50 people who turned up early to conduct business were eventually advised by staff to disperse and return after noon, when the cheques were supposed to be ready for distribution. But those instructions went unheeded by most. Instead, some of those waiting became verbally abusive towards the staff, accusing them of being lazy and not doing their jobs.
“Allyuh had since 8 o’clock this morning to sort out the cheques, people who money going straight in the bank doh have to wait until after 12,” one elderly man shouted.
Some showed reason when it was noted they needed to adhere to the social distancing measures, however, and tried to separate themselves from the crowd by moving to the other side of the street to wait for their cheques.
At the Central Bank, those people who waited until the final day for the exchange of the old paper-based $100 bill for the new polymer bills were lined up in their numbers outside of the building yesterday. In fact, the line snaked around the corner from the Edward Street side entrance set up for the public to Independence Square. Police officers eventually had to be dispatched to the site to ensure law and order was maintained.
Members of the public were also lined up outside internet service provider Flow’s and KFC’s Independence Square branches.
There were also long lines outside banks. Although none of those in line wanted to speak to the Guardian Media on the record, some said they had no choice but to join the lines as they had business to conduct.
At supermarkets in Cunupia, shoppers were made to wait outside by staff as the number of people allowed in at any given time was limited. The same was being done at several supermarkets in Aranguez and El Socorro, San Juan.
At PriceSmart’s Port-of-Spain branch, shoppers lined up using shopping carts as dividers between them and other customers as they waited to be let into the building. PriceSmart staff allowed only ten customers in at a time and waited until the same amount had left the building before allowing any more in.
At TruValu supermarket in San Juan, similar precautions were in place. One staff member said most of the panic buying had subsided and although there was a line to enter the supermarket, she said the numbers were similar to a regular day’s sales.