JUTA driver stifling from COVID
For the past few months, it has been a struggle for 42-year-old Conrod Wright to make the $100,000 monthly payments for his car that he has been using as a Jamaica Union of Travellers Association Kingston Chapter driver since 2019.
Tourists were coming to the island in droves and most were requesting high-end vehicles, like his Toyota Crown, for daily transport. However, his livelihood has collapsed since the fallout brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. According to Wright, the only light at the end of the tunnel for his business is if Jamaicans decide to be vaccinated.
"Listening to all the medical experts about the fact that when everyone is vaccinated things will go back to normal, visitors will start coming in. So transportation I'm sure will be up and running," Wright told THE STAR. "My monthly income has cut by 75 per cent. All of my savings from over the years have been depleted because I have to be using some to help with my loan payments because nothing is coming in."
To date, more than 47,000 Jamaicans have received their first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine through the Government's COVID-19 Vaccine Implementation Programme, which started March 10. The latest vaccination blitz ended yesterday as the Government tries to achieve herd immunity. Wright continues to ply his trade around the Corporate Area but income is at a standstill.
"From COVID I have not seen a month where I work and come up with my loan payment. Most times I will only get like two or three jobs for the month and that is like not even gas money," he noted. At the onset of COVID in Jamaica in March 2020, many persons who depend on the tourism sector suffered tremendous setbacks, senior adviser and strategist in the Ministry of Tourism, Delano Seiveright, told THE STAR.
"After the border closed in March, most tourism operations ceased, resulting in 90 per cent of the 170,000 persons directly employed in the sector being sent home. Considering that tourism directly employs 12.6 per cent of the labour force, obviously, this unfortunate development has had serious implications for the country's unemployment rate," he said. "Some have been back to work but many are still home."
Evaluating his losses, Wright said he is looking to possibly explore a new business venture, as international ride-sharing giant Uber is set to enter Jamaica in short order.
"The game is all about surviving so if I see where I can make some money from Uber to make some money to pay for my car, I will do it," he said. "There is always room for upgrade in transportation because it is service that the company can provide."