Street Food Vending Gets A ‘Bligh’ Amid COVID-19 Restrictions

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Street Food Vending Gets A ‘Bligh’ Amid COVID-19 Restrictions

In the wake of a jolt in COVID-19 positive cases, Friday’s government-imposed lockdown across Trinidad and Tobago has not only restricted people’s access to shopping malls, gyms, and other recreational centers but it has placed a band on several popular restaurants.

On Thursday evening many persons panicked in a race to purchase their spicy fried chicken (10 for 10 special), citizens are asking if the new restrictions also apply to the ‘doubles man’ or the ‘gyro man’ on the corner streets of many urban spaces.

While mitigating the spread of the pandemic is vital, “holding down the movement of street vendors harms the little man, the small business people and it playing with we survival,” one street vendor in POS, while speaking to us at IzzSo.

“Big businessmen, KFC and dem have plenty money, dem could hold out but the little man like me, we can’t go a day without getting it, its a daily hustle,” the vendor said.

A street food vendor refers to individuals who offer goods or services for sale to the public without having a permanent built-up structure, but with a temporary static structure or mobile stall.

In the COVID-19 era, the street stall economy seems to gain more support from the government to reboot the economy and support employment as street vendors nationwide took advantage of Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley’s allowance for them to continue operating.

In an interview with CNC3,  a supervisor at Hassan Gyros on Tragarete Road said they were grateful that they were allowed to open.

“We have started using the Orderista app so customers cam order through the app and they get home delivery and we also do call-in orders. As of recently, we also do curb-side pickup so once customers call in the order, once we can, we go right here and drop off the food for them we are doing as best as possible in these times, because right now the food industry is suffering, and not just the food industry but all industries but the biggest impact is food and beverage,” the supervisor said.

One of the central recommendations many governments globally have used to curb the spread of COVID-19 is a severe lockdown to enforce physical distancing. However, a report by Cash and Patel (2020) contends those are not the right strategies for low-income countries and argue that such “strategies might subvert two core principles of global health: that context matters and that social justice and equity are paramount” (1687). It is clear that without appropriate social support the current lockdown is deepening ongoing structural inequalities.

As the routines of everyday life continue to change and movement halted under the present state of pandemic conditions, all enterprises are forced to entertain innovative ways to continue earning revenue amid restrictions.

While outspoken businessman and head of the Trotters Restaurant Group Peter George observed that while restaurants were closed, doubles and gyro vendors were still allowed to operate. Local franchise, Royal Castle championed on Friday with its mobile operation in full swing on Ariapita Avenue.

According to some experts, street vendors, market traders and market porters provide necessary goods and services, especially to those who must buy life’s necessities in very small quantities at affordable prices. Those who sell food—both fresh food and prepared food—are an essential part of urban supply chains. They embody food security for a wide swath of people who cannot afford modern supermarkets.

“Research unequivocally shows that the informal economy is absolutely critical to food security, particularly in lower-income communities.”

~Caroline Skinner, WIEGO’s Urban Research Director, quoted in City Metric

In conclusion, some have said that informal street businesses are predicted to ensue through the course of the pandemic, as dismantling them will further accelerate Trinidad and Tobago’s potential economic turmoil.

What are your thoughts?