Tackling COVID19 the Caribbean way
I’m sure it’s an understatement to say that the year 2020 has been an eventful year – a year our generation will not easily forget. Trending #COVID19 and #coronavirus have dominated the year so far with no end in sight as yet.
We were in Grenada at the time it became apparent this was going to go global. Although we had prayed for being caught out by lockdown on this beautiful island we did actually make it on one of the last BA flights back to London, a day after the UK went on lockdown.
Every country has approachd the pandemic in a slightly different way. I was pleasantly surprised however how Caribbean islands including Grenada tackled this ugly pandemic head on successfully, way before the UK got to grips with it (if you can call it that).
If you were not a local you were encouraged to leave the island and so one image I will never forget was the mass exodus of university students returning to the US days before lockdown. Grenada’s airport has never been this busy to my knowledge.
Queuing along the main road towards the airport were SGU students with oodles of luggage in the blazing sunshine making headlines.
Extra planes were provided to fly home these students leaving the university campus almost empty and bars, restaurants and beaches with a lot less customers.
At the airport you saw students taking everything but the kitchen sink – pets were a definite cargo to take long though. Never has the airport been that alive with numerous barking dog tunes and protests of getting into their kennels. Little did they know they were actually going to be safer in Grenada than in the US.
Social media and news ads started to promote the importance of washing hands regularly, not shaking hands or hugging to avoid passing on any germs.
Elbow bumps, foot greetings and the “You good” shout outs started to flood the island.
Like in most other countries finding antibacterial gel and rubbing alcohol was literally like a treasure hunt. Shelves started to get empty fast in supermarkets fast. Toilet paper however didn’t run out so quickly – in fact we travelled back to the UK with toilet paper – something I never thought I’d bring back as a ‘souvenir’ – rum had always been my preference. Customs were highly amused – I was not!
And then the island went into lockdown…
The Grenadian government like many other Caribbean islands took very stringent measures to protect its inhabitants – 24 hour lockdown on the 6th of April 2020 for 14 days. No messing about or pandering to certain business groups. It was straight up illegal to leave your property unless you could prove you were going to the hospital for medical attention. The fine went up to EC$10,000 and six months prison sentence eventually.
It was straight up illegal to leave your property unless you could prove you were going to the hospital for medical attention. The fine went up to EC$10,000 and six months prison sentence eventually
The island hadn’ been so quiet in a long time. A complete shut down.
Security measures somewhat eased from the 20th of April sparking crowds chasing to supermarkets. The 24-hour curfew continued but allowed for new designated public operating hours for certain businesses (8am to 5pm on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays).
Public transport was suspended.
Ports and the airport were closed for weeks until some yachts were given access to moor again. The airport is due to open again for flights this month…we shall see.
Challenges with social distancing
Social distancing was strongly encouraged before lockdown and eventually made mandatory for residents. Like in all other countries the six feet rule was widely advertised. This poster just giving you your choices straight up:
On the rare shopping days during lockdown when it was legal to go to the supermarket to stock up on food, supermarkets did struggle to contain the crowds of people at first. I remember my mum queuing for IGA at Spiceland mall for four hours to get a few provisions in the midday sun and not even getting inside the mall to continue queuing.
This was the chaos she experienced at first before the Army arrived and organised a queue in line with social distancing measures:
The frustration was understandable. Interestingly local farmers made the most of the opportunity by placing their trucks strategically on the mall car park to sell their local produce. Now that is quick thinking!
Supermarkets learnt fast from this experience. Whereas the UK made a big deal about allowing elderly and key workers have set times to shop as a priority, Grenada’s supermarkets introduced a general queue for over 65s which meant older residents had priority throughout the whole day whilst the supermarket was open.
Supermarkets also provided sheltered queuing systems that ensured customers could keep their distance sheltered from the hot sun or pelting rain.
As you entered the supermarket you were given Hand sanitiser and the shopping carts also received a gratuity squirt of disinfectant.
Rules are rules – if you can’t keep them you won’t get access to the store. Safety comes first!
Rising to the challenge
They say “When life gives you lemons make lemonade” – a saying simple but profound. Grenadians have embraced this saying in numeous ways.
Tackling the lack of antibacterial gel the Westerhall Rum factory quickly focused their efforts to produce hand rubbing alcohol and antibacterial gel for the island. It offered discounts on these – thank you Westerhall Rum for not exploiting the pandemic!
Hotels like True Blue Bay Boutique Resort raised awareness of the importance of social distancing and produced numerous videos on social media of how to stay safe and positive during the pandemic. This video was my favourite.
Petrol and gas prices were dropped…
The Grenada Chocolate Fest shared numerous Zoom sessions in collaboration with businesses around the island.
Imported food items sold at absolute bargain prices like sour cream for EC$1 instead of EC$9 for those ready to binge out on chips and dip, feta cheese for EC$10 instead of EC$19 and iceberg lettuce for EC$5.50 instead of EC$11 for non Grenadian dishes.
Residents were encouraged to buy local produce – a great opportunity to remind the island of the lush and abundant variety of vegetables and fruits.
Result of the lockdown
The island only saw 23 individuals infected of the COVID19 outbreak to date with no deaths. Proof in my book that sometimes the stricter measures do work.
Of course, continuing safe measures on this island as with other Caribbean islands is incredibly important given the limited medical resources available.
So social distancing measures are still in place as is the mandatory wearing of face masks.
Whether at the beach or at work – the way this island currently functions is still on high alert.
Huge news for the Caribbean culture was the cancelling of this years Carnival – an event making social distancing completely impossible.
Has it all been worth it? I let you decide but in my book I would feel safer in Grenada right now than in London!
So what is next for Grenada and its tourism? The answer is just one blog away…