(Photo: fader.com)

Beauty professionals worried as Jamaican public stays away

(Photo: fader.com)

The confirmation of the first coronavirus case in Jamaica on March 10 was the beginning of a rapid decline for many professionals in the beauty industry.

Many persons resorted to panic buying following the announcement of the coronavirus presence in Jamaica.

Gut response for many was to create barriers between themselves and others, which saw the public buy out masks and gloves at pharmacies, stores, street vendors, wherever they could be found. It also led to unscrupulous individuals having a go at health facilities, including the Kingston Public Hospital and the Slipe Pen Road Comprehensive Health Centre, to acquire masks and gloves needed to respond to the emerging threat.

The panic buying was almost inane, as people rushed supermarkets, and wholesales to stock up on food and other supplies as quickly as they could. Reports of disinfectants, rubbing alcohol, baby wipes and other cleaning agents selling out at various locations across the country, particularly the Corporate Area, were hourly. It was not unlike the preparation one would see for an impending hurricane.

“I sanitise after everything I do…But sometimes I’m not even sure if that’s enough. You just never know”

– Beautician Marie Kirlew

That, perhaps, foreshadowed Friday’s, March 13, declaration of the country as a disaster area by Prime Minister Andrew Holness. It gave the Government additional powers to respond to the crisis, including imposing a quarantine on the communities of Seven and Eight Miles, Bull Bay in St Andrew where the first patient diagnosed resides.

 Amid all the panic and increasing number of confirmed cases, which stands at 15 as of today, March 16, few were able to spare a thought for the service industry professionals who rely on the steady support of the public to sustain their living.

Prime Minister Andrew Holness (right), listens as Attorney-General Marlene Malahoo Forte (2nd right), speaks at a press briefing on Friday (March 13), at the Office of the Prime Minister in Kingston. Looking on are Minister of Health and Wellness, Dr Christopher Tufton and Chief Medical Officer, Dr Jacqueline Bisasor-McKenzie.

Those particularly in the beauty industry came under scrutiny, especially after the prime minister’s media briefing on Friday when attorney general Marlene Malahoo-Forte issued them a warning to not provide their services if they suspected they were infected.

According to Malahoo-Forte, those professionals are “under duty to be free from this disease. Please know that the local board can revoke your authorisation if you are found to be suffering from this disease.”

The warning was also needless as the public voluntarily withdrew to their homes, avoiding public spaces and possible infection from contact with others.

One barber at a popular St Andrew shop, said business at the establishment had cut by roughly half since the first two cases were announced mid last week. *Jermaine Stephens added that his own customers dropped by almost 30 per cent, citing numerous cancellations by regulars. Stephens told Caribbean Business Report that the fall off in children and students was almost 100 per cent as the closure of schools and universities, compounded by the fear of infection by parents, negated their need for haircuts.

Jamaica was declared a disaster area by Prime Minister Andrew Holness.

“It rough. Between Friday and today (Sunday, March 15) more than half a dozen people cancelled on me. Usually I would be booked for the entire day right up to closing but right now I only have clients for half the day.”

Malahoo-Forte said barbers and barbershops are obligated to not contaminate anyone under the Public Health, Barbers and Barbershop Regulations . “You must not put yourself in harm’s way. Get out of the way and ensure that you are not inviting persons or entertaining persons who are at risk, as your licences too can be revoked,” she said.

One beautician at a salon in Half-Way-Tree told CBR, “I sanitise after everything I do. I clean up after every client. I disinfect as much as I can. But sometimes I’m not even sure if that’s enough. You just never know”

Marie Kirlew said her clients had more than halved since the announcement was made but said she was hoping for the best outcome.

“What they’re doing is what’s needed. You don’t want everybody getting sick, especially when the health system set up the way it is. You have to do what necessary for people but I just hope we can hold out ‘til the panic over and don’t have to close shop.”

*name changed upon request