Tuesday 2 June, 2020

No mask? No entry: Trini documents grocery trip in Ecuador amid SoE

- COVID Tales from a Trini in Ecuador

On the first day of the implementation of Trinidad and Tobago’s stay-at-home measure to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 disease, I spent my time struggling to get food.

After burning through most of my food and drink last week, I decided to utilise my day off to head to the grocery store and pharmacy in Quito, Ecuador, where I remain stuck after my flight home was cancelled. Since the last article detailing my experience, Ecuador’s Government has revised the State of Emergency (SoE) which began on March 16 from 7 pm to 5 am, to between 2 pm and 5 am. 

Related Article

Trinidad and Tobago’s new stay-at-home order prohibits movement unless essential. While Ecuador has taken more drastic measures, a major difference I noticed is that here, you’re not allowed to enter most establishments without wearing facemasks. The masks can be found at around US $1 for one, which is extremely expensive.

To create some context, let me describe my environment. I live on a usually busy street; a mall called Quicentro Shopping minutes away from my apartment, now opens from 7 am to 1 pm due to the 2 pm curfew.

Around 11 am, I made my way to the mall, which only allows access to the grocery store located there. At the time of publication, Ecuador had 2,240 novel coronavirus cases and 75 deaths. As I neared the building, I immediately noticed a line outside the entrance and soon realised there was a process in place. People were lined up some distance away from each other. Roughly five people were allowed to enter the grocery at a time, but each person had to apply hand sanitizer provided by security guards before entering.

Everyone steered clear from each other while in the store and continued to wear their facemasks lest they were asked to leave. I initially questioned the purpose of the mask since that protective measure is said to be for people who are already ill. Then I thought about it - perhaps it was a necessary precaution since a sick person who has yet to display symptoms could sneeze or cough on an item which would then be picked up by another customer who could touch their eyes, nose or mouth. On reflection, it seemed like a plausible argument to me. However, Trinidad’s Minister of Health, Terrence Deyalsingh, has discouraged the use of masks back home, saying they are useless and possibly more dangerous if not used correctly.

Although too soon to know for sure, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has said that studies suggest the novel coronavirus may persist on surfaces for a few hours or up to several days. This may vary under different conditions such as the type of surface, temperature or humidity of the environment.

I completed my shopping, roughly one hour after entering the store. Usually, there are taxis outside the mall. Yesterday, there were none. I stood outside with my groceries for about 30 minutes before I was able to get a taxi back home.

Once I offloaded my groceries, I made my way out of the apartment, one last time. I visited a pharmacy where I intended to purchase Vitamin C but a small container of Redoxon cost US $15. I left it there and returned home. I refused to make that purchase until I found an old bill showing the cost since price gouging has been rampant during this lockdown.

Unfortunately, I still do not know if and when I can return to Trinidad and Tobago.

Copa Airlines has no available flights for even the month of May and Trinidad and Tobago’s borders remain closed, with few exceptions being made for entry. I continue to wait with bated breath as the world battles this pandemic.

With a solidarity trial underway in Norway and Spain, led by the WHO in an attempt to find a vaccine, I am optimistic that the wait will not be much longer.

Get the latest local and international news straight to your mobile phone for free: