As I type this blog entry, Barbados is on day 20 of a 30 day national shutdown with an overnight curfew from 6:00 pm until 8:00 am. The first 10 days of the shutdown was total and complete and the only persons permitted on the road were essential medical responders and citizens seeking medical treatment.
Prior to the total national shutdown, the government dictated that gatherings of any type could be no more than 100 people during stage 1. A few days later, that number was down to 25 then 10 as we entered stage 2.
Friday Night Fish Fry (arguably the most popular event on the island) in Oistins was closed to dine-in patrons but take-out was still permitted. Grocery stores were still open but there was a limit to 6 rolls of toilet paper. Even churches was down to 10 in stage 2, were shut down in stage 3. In fact, stage 3 dictated that everything was closed except essential businesses.
After the initial 10 days of the shutdown a shopping schedule was set up for supermarkets, fish markets and hardware stores based on the first initial of the surname Sunday through Saturday. For instance L-M-N-O-P-Q had Tuesday 1pm to 4pm and Friday 8am to 11-am. Our weekly banking day was Friday 9am to 1pm.
The first cycle of the schedule rotation, lines twisted several hundred meters with hundreds of people. There were tales of people that arrived 2 hours early for their appointed day, did not gain access to the facility before the allotted time expired and were not permitted to enter the store. In other words, after arriving at 6:00 am to queue in line, if they did not get in the store by 11:00 am and were turned away!
By the time the second opportunity to shop for the week rolled around, lines were not nearly as bad. I guess people either had all they needed or as I was told, “people were out of money.”
To date*, Barbados has gone through 6 consecutive days without a new convid-19 case, although there has been 5 deaths and it seems we are on the right track.
Although we are going in the right direction, I think getting back to normal will take some time. I hope that the spirit of our beautiful island comes quickly. Shakespeare says that the “eyes are the window to the soul”. I believe that the mouth is the doorway to the spirit. I am particularly bothered that by necessity, we have to cover our mouths with masks which closes the afore mentioned doorway.
Part of the charm of the Bajan people is they are warm, friendly and hospitable. Whether I am at a store, a bank, walking for exercise, or strolling through the neighborhood, I smile then I greet passers by. In fact, I’ve been told that I have a quick and easy smile, but now nobody gets to see it. I am accustomed to “shouting people” or (calling out) as I go by their house, but masked it just a muffled sound that can be heard a few feet away. Occasionally I still have trouble understanding the bajan dialect, and it’s increasingly difficult to decipher a masked bajan. General conversations or running dialogs that were common place throughout the island have become rare.
I am encouraged by the resolve of the people of Bim. As we have been observing the curfew and shopping restrictions with no organized complaints. Most people here support the decisions of the government to keep us safe. The beaches are empty, streets are clear, and I haven’t seen any impatient arguments or verbal sparing.
This place, this lovely island because of the convid-19 has become akin to big cities in the US where conversations, laughter and smiles are less common. It is my hope and prayer that changes in everyday life in Barbados is short-lived. It is my belief that Barbados will come out of this pandemic stronger, more patient and more loving country.
*Covid-19 update 27 April 2020; 1751 test conducted, 80 cases confirmed, 6 deaths 35 isolated and 39 recovered.