Saturday 19 September, 2020

Lockdown relaxation in entertainment could be reversed, McKenzie warns

Local Government Minister Despond McKenzie speaking in Parliament.

Local Government Minister Despond McKenzie speaking in Parliament.

Minister of Local Government and Community Development, Desmond McKenzie is warning that the reopening of the entertainment sector could be rolled back over what he says are glaring and sustained breaches of agreed conditions and protocols governing events and other gatherings amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

He issued the warning as he called an emergency meeting with entertainment sector players for Wednesday to discuss the situation.

“This disregard for the rules is happening at and through numerous events being held all over the country. Our surveys show that over 700 events have been staged without any permission being sought. In other instances where approvals for events were given, the agreed conditions were blatantly breached. The Jamaica Constabulary Force is being stretched in responding to these breaches, and it is completely unfair to our policemen and women who are simultaneously dealing with everything from traffic violations to violent crime," McKenzie said in a statement.

The development comes in the wake of a spike in COVID-19 cases across Jamaica, with the island on Monday reporting a record increase in positive coronavirus hospitalisations over a 24-hour period.

McKenzie said he was also "very concerned" about what he said was the continued misuse of beaches and rivers.

"The surveys have revealed that they are being overcrowded, in clear breach of the social distancing protocols. Little Dunn’s River, Spanish River and Little Ochi are just a few of the venues at which the overcrowding is occurring. Additionally, parties and other events are being held at various beaches and rivers, in clear violation of the stipulations that govern their reopening. Parties and tournaments are banned at beaches and rivers," the minister stressed. 

He added: “The Government is very concerned about the public health implications and effects of the unconscionable behaviour that is being seen island-\wide. I wish to make it clear that this administration will not allow the gains made in the management of COVID-19 to be destroyed by people who have absolutely no regard for anyone’s interest but theirs."

The agenda for Wednesday's meeting, McKenzie said, will involve a review of the situation and a decision about the way forward.

"The Government has been steadily working to restore economic and social life, but not at any price. Therefore, there is no guarantee that the relaxations granted to this point will remain," he warned.

"Actions have consequences, and I want to make it clear that we are determined to use the policy and legal tools available to ensure behaviour change in this time of public health emergency,” McKenzie said.

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