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Surviving COVID-19 On a Small Island

Maria Davies is back to talk about her life as an expat in Grenada during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Surviving COVID-19 on a Small Island in Grenada

How do I begin to try and document how absolutely our lives have been upended because of COVID-19.

Our friends canceled their trip to Grenada, then cruise ships were not allowed to dock, then all flights were suspended or curtailed, schools closed, students were sent home. St. George’s University students left; all public transportation was canceled. We found out that very likely, there will be no graduation for our grandson Tristan. We tried canceling our trip but the systems were so overloaded that the cancellation dragged. Then the government announced a total lockdown.

Shopping For Food During Lockdown

The total lockdown meant that we could go out only to the grocery store on a designated day, or for emergency medical treatment, otherwise, we had to stay within the confines of our property. A curfew was put into effect from 7:00 PM to 5:00 AM daily. Since there are only 6 major grocery stores in the southern part of the island where we live, serving some 7,500 people, the lines were so long. I stood in line for 7 hours the 1st time I went grocery shopping.

As this obviously wasn’t working, a decision was made to allow 2 days/week for shopping, better but still long lines; next seniors were asked to shop before 9:00 AM. However, because of lack of transportation, many couldn’t arrive that early. Next came shopping in alphabetical order for last names, sill not good. Next 3 days of shopping, which did somewhat solve the problem but not in the villages where the food shopping is done in small shops. These shops were not well stocked with anything other than bare necessities and as food delivery was hampered by the curfew, some shops ran out of food.

Thank God Grenadians are among the most generous of people and we all shared as much as we could. Money was another challenge as banks were closed, so no cash machine, no remittances from abroad could be cashed for the many who rely on family sending money. No utility companies open but again, the companies rose to the challenge by extending the payment deadline indefinitely and not cutting off service.

Here are a couple of entries from a diary I kept for the first few weeks of the pandemic.

March 28, 2020

Since the last post, things have changed drastically.

There are now 7 confirmed cases of COVID-19, all related to a woman who came to Grenada on the 16th of March and sickened on the 17th. She was isolated and her contacts traced and also isolated.

No more Grand Anse Beach. We must stay home except for going out to buy necessities. All stores, except for grocery and pharmacy closed. The market is closed, a loss for me as I buy all my fresh fruit and vegetables in the market. In the stores, the preventive precautions are strictly enforced. Only one person from each family can go shopping or ride in a taxi (restricted public transportation). Strict physical distancing applies to people waiting outside to enter. Buses severely restricted in the number of people they can carry. Curfew from 7 PM to 5 AM. Asked housekeeper not to come for the 3 weeks until we receive the latest update from the government.

Our food supply so far is adequate. We still have some edibles growing in our garden and have planted many more. We talk frequently with family and friends to keep connected, and try to encourage each other to do whatever it takes to handle this.

My mood swings from being annoyed and upset to feeling pretty good. We live on a beautiful island, the weather’s good, we are healthy.

April 4, 2020

There is such a sense of unreality. I look out at the same beautiful scenery, but the ocean is empty. There is an eerie quiet everywhere, no traffic, feels like living on a ghost island.
Food is not an immediate concern to me yet though the lockdown regulations did not take into account the reality of how, where, and what people need to buy. Consequently, there are huge lines on the allowed days, shops have run out of food, people are desperate to feed their families, and are ignoring the physical isolation guideline, even at the risk of arrest with fines and/or jail. Masks are mandatory but the supply soon ran out, so people improvised, the funniest one seen was a man wearing his wife’s bra with the straps up his forehead.

the view from my window

Keeping Busy

The above gives you a flavor of what the first few weeks were like. While there was considerable hardship of jobs lost, of tourist revenue stopped, of limited movement, etc., we kept busy with home chores, cleaning, reading, talking to each other, and so the days passed. The end results more than validated all the extreme measures the government took to protect us. Going from a complete lockdown to a gradual easing of limitations has meant only 159 cases of the virus since the beginning, only 1 death, no current cases, all infections imported, no community spread.

We are now free to move about the island, go to the beach, eat in restaurants, gather at each other’s homes, primarily because all activities occur outdoors. In salons, hairdressers and the staff wears masks. We still wear masks, physical distancing is strictly enforced in all places of business, our temperature is taken as we enter and we have to leave our contact information with the business.

Easter in Grenada

Life in Grenada After a Year of COVID-19

The tourist industry is still staggering from the losses, but more flights are gradually allowed to land with extremely strict COVID protocols of testing, quarantine, and contact tracing. Quarantine has to be in a government-approved hotel, for 48-hours, only designated taxi drivers can take guests to their hotel of choice, testing before departure from the country of origin, upon arrival in Grenada, and at the end of the 48-hour quarantine. As for many intending to come for short visits, this has proven too onerous and they will not come, including dear friends of ours.

One of the serious challenges we are facing is the misinformation and ridiculous conspiracy theories floating about regarding the vaccine, (we have AstraZeneca). Both PAHO (Pan American Health Organization) and the government put out daily “myth busters” to try to dispel these. Unfortunately, only about 11% of the population has been vaccinated. We will get our 2nd shot in a few days, no reaction, other than a sore arm for a day.

Meantime we live on a charming island, surrounded by beauty, great weather, gentle, sweet people, doing what we would normally do except for travel. As of today, no new cases of infections. Our story is a source of pride as no other Caribbean island has fared this well.

How has your experience been during COVID-19? I would love to hear other ex-pat and stories from your countries. Please comment with them at the bottom of this page!

Maria and her husband Richard Nuscher have lived in retirement on the island of Grenada in the West Indies for the past 6 years. Before retiring, Maria was a successful Realtor. Now Maria spends her time volunteering for the Willie Redhead Foundation, an organization dedicated to the preservation of the architecture and culture of her beloved island. In addition, she maintains her website, publishes a newsletter, guest writes for several websites, and enjoys gardening, growing many of the things they eat. She is also an unofficial leader of what she calls her “Explorers’ Group,” made up of like-minded friends who enjoy exploring the island and organizing fun outings. She is also an avid member of the Honey Good Network!

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1 Comment
  1. I also live on a small island, pop 4600…in March last year , there were 105 cases , I myself went into self isolation for a month, with full pay . This is a fishing town and no business were closed…a few shops closed for a bit, but the 2 grocery stores remained open at all times with a restricted number. Masks are mandatory. Vestmannaeyjar is the name of the town, the island is called Heimaey, just off the south coast of Iceland. Restrictions are lifted and more ppl can meet, 50….and tourists are coming back to Iceland, if they have vaccination cards…I would say at least 80% will and most have had the first dose. We love to vacation in sunny parts of the world and xant wait to go

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