The once bustling old capital is now slowly becoming a ghost town of sorts. Businesses are either now closed for business, reducing their opening hours and in some cases, shutting down. Stores that were once filled with customers are now lucky if they get a few for the day. Downtown Belize is practically dead with only a few stores still open for business. All this is the result of COVID-19. The virus has affected the country’s economy as well as the international financial sector. There are some businesses that have opted to stay open to continue to provide basic services for residents. However, those stores are taking the necessary precautions to protect their customers and their employees. Marion Carter from First Choice Pharmacy on Cemetery Road, told us the measures they are taking.
Marion Carter, Pharmacist, First Choice Pharmacy: “First of all we have on the mask and that’s to prevent the transmission of the virus – well it’s not airborne but it can be transmitted through sneezing or coughing and that can extend a couple of feet. We have some markers around the store and they’re positioned at least three feet apart so as to encourage social distancing and we also let in a few customers at a time so the total number of people in the drug store will not exceed ten persons. We discourage people to be leaning on the counters as well just so that we don’t have to be aware that they’ll leave germs on the counters of whatsoever as well as having a hand wash station outside. We also have hand sanitizers upon request, if you need to sanitize your hands if you’re still not satisfied with the hand washing you can sanitize your hands. We’re an essential service, pharmacist, nurse, doctors, grocery store owners, well we know that we have an essential service to provide. I mean if something should go wrong you want to have a place you can depend on for your services and we are one of those businesses that does that.”
First Choice Pharmacy has adjusted its hours and will now be opening until 7pm instead of 9pm. And, just as pharmacies are essential, so are grocery stores. Residents need to be able to purchase basic commodities in order to survive. Bottom Dalla on North Front Street remains open and they have implemented their own measures to ensure the safety of everyone who uses the service. Aisha Trapp, the marketing manager of San Cas Group told us more about these measures.
Aisha Trapp, Marketing Manager, San Cas Group of Companies: “We are an essential service, the SanCas supermarkets. The precautionary measures that we’ve been taking is one; as you can see we are close to the public as in walk in but we are serving them through a pick up and delivery system. People are getting more concerned, yes we know a lot of stores are closing down but food is essential and cleaning supplies, baby formula and diapers as well so we have to provide a service to the people. We are open from 8-2 now instead of our regular opening hours. We have the distancing of the tape, the social distancing where we have the tape marked where we have the customers stand in line. Each of our cashiers are equipped with a spray bottle that has in an antibacterial solution , our security as well have the solution that when you come in they’re going to spray your hands, give you a piece of paper to wipe I mean we hear the people’s concern and we want to also take into consideration our employees, we have to be responsible for them so we regrouped and we came up with this idea to implement this pick up service and the deliver service to customers. There’s a lot of customers out there, the elderly, customers who have children at home that cannot come out to purchase food but providing this service as long as we are allowed to we will do it. Our other supermarkets what we will do because of this new news that we got today we’re gonna regroup and we’re going to see what we can do in each area; we have SaveU Supermarket and the People’s Store in Orange Walk but for now Bottom Dalla we are serving our customers. You can call us or Whatsapp us your orders. You have from 8-2 to send us your orders and then all you have to do is come by the door, you know we have had to put new infrastructure in place in order for us to carry out this but we are praying and hoping for the best for Belize.”
Bottom Dalla is open until 2pm for walk-in customers, but remains open after that time for pickup and delivery.