“[…] With the government’s unremitting lockdown driving inherently law abiding barbers to make decisions in contravention of Covid-19 restrictions, it’s ultimately causing more harm than good.
“Customers are apparently less constricted by these restrictions and more willing to make themselves available for their well overdue weekly grooming.
“Inevitably, the obvious question becomes: your place or mine?”
In the following letter to the editor, barbershop owner Rudd Gonzales urges the Ministry of Health to work with the personal care industry to provide ensure safe service, rather than outlaw them:
With virtually 30 years’ experience and speaking as the proprietor of Cuts ‘R’ Us barbershop and Caribbean School of Barbering, I found it necessary, through this column of your esteemed website, to draw the readers’ attention towards the predicament now faced by barbers.
With no end in sight to the lockdown and bills continuing to rise, barbers are now faced with grave choices. Either to obey the stay at home order and face financial ruin or risk it all and operate underground, with the possibility of contracting the virus.
If you’re able to evade the illness, you must be prepared to deal with the consequences if caught by the authorities—which seems unlikely though, considering the number of well-groomed individuals walking around.
With the government’s unremitting lockdown driving inherently law abiding barbers to make decisions in contravention of Covid-19 restrictions, it’s ultimately causing more harm than good. Customers are apparently less constricted by these restrictions and more willing to make themselves available for their well overdue weekly grooming.
Inevitably, the obvious question becomes: your place or mine?
Risking it all to look good? Picture an uncontrolled environment, with probably no PPE, no social distancing under a few drinks, with Nadia Batson in the background singing ‘so long I ent see ya!’
It’s just a matter of time before repeated requests from customers cause more barbers to yield. Especially as our ‘customers’ are considered friends, family, loved ones and, however you look at it, share a deep connection with their barbers that the government and Ministry of Health cannot break.
I suggest, rather than put energy into prevention, the same effort could be channelled towards regulating the operations of the personal care industry. Practitioners have a vested interest in the health and wellbeing of their customers, which could go a long way in their efforts to prevent the spread of the virus.
Since this lockdown, I’ve had countless calls requesting service and I’ve turned them down—not because I feel I can’t keep them safe, but rather I’d prefer someone else be in defiance of the law.
My customers respect my position and try to support me. Customers have called offering financial assistance which I’ve also been fortunate enough to be able to turn down as well. Barbers are a proud group—they don’t want handouts or government grants, they just want to work!
This uncertainty regarding our return to business is weighing heavily on service providers and, as a result, many have literally taken things into their own hands. Many in the personal care industry have transitioned back to a time before they had their established businesses and were trying desperately to make a dollar anywhere and anyhow they can.
The nature of this industry is grounded in trust and unwavering loyalty. A customer called me to ask for permission to visit another barber for a haircut. I could only concur and hope all’s well that ends well.
The thriving underground grooming industry is hidden in plain slight and has become the new reality. Even public figures that you see every day who ought to know better and should set an example are getting their hair coloured and cut with no apparent fear of reprimand.
The solution is simple in order to give the green light to barbers and personal care practitioners, who should have to follow these instructions to the letter, in addition to any other additional recommendations by the MoH:
- N-95 face mask and protective screen must be worn;
- Customers must wear face masks;
- Gloves must be worn if necessary;
- Tools and work stations must be sanitised after every customer;
- Appropriate physical distancing within the work space;
- Appointments only;
- Fresh capes for each Customer must be mandatory (single use);
- Service must be barred at any sign of infection to customers and information reported to the proper authorities;
- If the practitioner shows any sign of Covid-19, service must be discontinued;
- Customers may wait in their vehicle until they are called to enter the place of business.
With these measures in place, contact tracing is already easy to do because all appointments are documented.
The health side of this dilemma has been skilfully managed by the minister of health and prime minister. It is now the second innings and time to accelerate the re-opening process.
After the stellar first inning performance, we may not want the kamikaze Chris Gayle to open the second innings but not the ultra-conservative Larry Gomes either. Give us the accomplished opening pair of Desmond Haynes and Gordon Greenidge who have the ability to read the conditions and determine the appropriate approach.
Employing some of their tactics may go a long way in securing a successful re-opening. When we see some businesses being reopened without any mechanisms for physical distancing and other preventive measures, its very disturbing.
Barbers in particular have a culture of employing sanitary measures before offering their services to each and every client. Therefore in this Covid-19 era they would be more likely prepared for heightened engagement of additional measures.
With the assistance of the Ministry of Health, we are willing to lead the way and show Oxford University that we are world class at not only providing quality haircuts but also in our adherence to cutting edge sanitation protocols and Covid-19 prevention.
Legitimate, patient, law abiding patriots deserve to join the workforce too!