Seemingly within moments of Island Governor Jonathan Johnson announcing a mandatory two-week lock-down in response to Saba’s first confirmed case of coronavirus COVID-19, many persons descended on the only remaining grocery store to buy groceries and supplies.
Johnson’s announcement was circulated on WhatsApp and was posted on Saba government’s Facebook page around 8:00pm Saturday. Although the lock-down took effect at 12:00am Sunday, the governor’s address did not mention food supplies or deliveries.
At that time, the only store still open was a small Chinese grocery store located on Thais Hill Road in The Bottom.
One shopper said there were about five persons in the store when they were there around 8:15pm. Then suddenly, the small grocery store was inundated with shoppers looking for last-minute items. “[We – Ed.] couldn’t even walk in the store. All within minutes … we saw the lines of people coming,” the person said.
Two officers of the Caribbean Netherlands Police Force KPCN arrived shortly after that. Sources say the officers told the crowd that there were too many persons inside the store and if persons did not come out of the store and adhere to social distancing, the store would have to be closed.
This pronouncement aggravated some of the shoppers, who proceeded to offer curt words of protest to the officers, asserting their need to buy food. Despite the slight unrest, persons cooperated and formed a long line outside the store.
The multitude of shoppers caused several persons to be momentarily trapped, as their cars were blocked in by arriving persons. It was said that the line of parked cars stretched up the street and around the corner.
The chaos even brought out Saba Police Chief Wingrove Baker, who was reportedly assisting to regulate the queue of shoppers, allowing only one member per family into the store at a time.
By 9:00pm, the regular closing time of the grocery store, many persons were still in line. Sources say shortly afterward other officers arrived at the scene and ordered the queued persons to go home.
This did not sit well with several of the persons who, by that time, did not get a chance to purchase food. Sources say several persons exchanged harsh words with the officers and things seemed to be getting tense. However, police conceded and allowed those in line to buy groceries. It was reported that the last person did not finish shopping until shortly after 10:00pm.
Around 10:00pm, the Saba government addressed the island’s food supply in a Facebook post: “We would like to clarify that food supplies and cargo are included in one of the vital services. Because they are, we are working on a plan to ensure that these services continue during the next weeks. Therefore, we encourage people to not panic at this moment about the possibility of food supply. Tomorrow [Sunday] we will bring forward the plan which will outline how this will occur.”
As of 7:00pm Sunday, the Saba government has yet to release the plan.
The Daily Herald.