This morning, there was far more movement in the city and around the country as almost all businesses are now open and so did government offices and statutory boards. But there is still a curfew in place, from eight p.m. to five a.m. and eight p.m. to six p.m. for minors. But under the new normal, the use of face masks is a must and persons must stand six feet apart while in public, which is considered a safe distance in case the nearby person is infected with COVID-19. So while shutters were up on Albert Street, business is just about to jump start. Here is News Five’s Duane Moody with a report.
Duane Moody, Reporting
In downtown Albert and Regent Streets in Belize City, the economic hub of the Old Capital, it appeared to be business as usual after about six weeks of lockdown. There was a lot of traffic on the streets, when compared to weeks ago and many wore masks, while others stood in cues outside banks, retail stores and elsewhere adhering to the six feet rule of social distancing. A state of emergency remains in place, but there has been an ease on restrictions in an effort to reopen the economy.
Michael Peyrefitte, Attorney General
“The NOC and the government had decided to relax the S.I. even more from Friday because we think we have it under control internally in the country to a certain extent so far. The Minister of Health informed me this morning that we only have two active cases remaining and they are within the same family so we are confident that we can expand the internal economy a little but more in a safe way. LPG suppliers, bakeries, markets, five to seven at night. All other business can now open from eight in the morning to seven at night. Is that clear?”
That clarification comes after a hiccup over the weekend when well-known fabric store, Mikado, was closed down by officers for not being authorized to be open. Today, it was open with its entire complement of staff. Owner Umesh Mahitani says that no revenue was coming in, so they had to send their staff home with half pay. He maintains that they are providing a service, especially during this time.
Umesh Mahitani, Owner, Mikado Store
“They were not quite sure of whether we should have opened or not, but we had a huge demand for fabric and so we opened up on Saturday and had to close around eleven o’clock. We went about our merry way and we are opened again today and the same faithful customers, which we always have, came back again today to purchase what they needed.”
“Talk to us about how important this is, the service that you provide to the public?”
“Well I glad you said service because that’s what it is. It is not like people are buying a lot of fabric; it’s a lotta people buying a little bit of fabric. So it goes a long way for people. If you buy a yard, you can almost make about twenty masks. So people would buy about three yards—one for the front, one for the back and a little filter in the middle—and with three yards, you could make about thirty-two masks.”
Julie McCord, the owner of Julie Mango Designs, has been affected by the S.O.E.; she is unable to purchase fabric from neighbouring Chetumal and Melchor and was one of the first to access material from Mikado over the weekend. While there have been a number of cancelations for prom and wedding dresses, she has resorted to making masks to generate income. Today, she was back at the fabric store to purchase material to meet the demands of clients.
Julie McCord, Designer
“I tried to use the crisis as a means of opportunity. I mean I lost business from wedding dresses and prom dressing, but I had to make up with it from masks. In order to separate myself from other people making masks, I did it slightly different. I had custom prints on mine and I had matching head ties. I was receiving a lot of orders, but I was unable to produce them because I did not enough fabric. And then the need for masks, the necessity for the masks, is very important so as soon as they told me they were going to be opening, I was probably one of the first ones in line.”
Most businesses are being allowed to open between non-curfew hours, including cosmetic stores, clothing stores and others. They are, however, to exercise social distancing guidelines for customers and employees and patrons should wear masks at all times. Cellular World reopened its doors today at branches countrywide and they are also adding a new line to its stock. Cellular World is now selling FDA-approved masks and other protective equipment.
Karan Sabnani, Co-Owner, Cellular World
“We are cognizant that communication is key in bringing back a crisis. What we did, we adapted quickly enough to at least try to do some online. We were using external approved couriers, delivery services and we tried to make it our best for people to access some of the products that we had. But we did have to send staff home; we tried our best to try to hold on to everyone. We have a lot of skill trained employees that we can’t replace so easily. So it was tough, but we had to try to pull through the best we can. To kinda move forward, we now carry a full line of coronavirus protection equipment. We have FDA-approved masks, thermometers; we have gloves, face shields—this will basically become the new accessories of life. So we figured to continue to survive, we need to kinda divert a little bit and keep that kinda stuff. Another thing we are adamant about is online shopping that avoids big crowds in the stores. We get it to you versus you coming in and risking yourself. We have set guidelines that we follow to get the product to you. So that’s gonna be a new way of life going forward and we really hope that people embrace that.”