'Not normal times'

'Not normal times'

Mix of COVID restrictions starts Dec 1

BY KIMONE FRANCIS
Senior staff reporter
francisk@jamaicaobserver.com

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

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MAINTAINING that “these are not normal times” Prime Minister Andrew Holness yesterday proposed a different Christmas and New Year under COVID-19 restrictions, tightening curfew hours for the holidays and limiting gatherings, a move designed to control the spread of the virus throughout the Yuletide season.

At the same time, in an effort to appease the business community, Holness announced a one-hour extension to the start of the nightly nine o' clock curfew, effective December 1, with the exceptions being Christmas, Boxing and New Year's days when the curfew will begin at 7:00 pm and end at 5:00 am.

“We are now approaching another period of high risk for us as a nation in the pandemic. This is a period of time when we will be seeing higher levels of travel both internally and from overseas. It is a period of time when Jamaicans are looking to the traditional merriment that is associated with the Christmas season.

“Those factors contribute to this period being a higher-risk period than normal. It is a difficult balance to fulfil the expectations of the season, anticipation in increase in commercial activity while at the same time keeping the population safe and not overwhelm our health system,” Holness told the House last evening as he announced pandemic measures for the season.

Urging Jamaicans to celebrate the holidays with immediate family and loved ones, Holness said public gatherings are to remain at no more than 15 people with a proposal on the table to amend the Disaster Risk Management Act to limit private gatherings to 15 people as well.

Parties and social events remain prohibited.

Holness said while Cabinet has been contemplating changes to facilitate funerals, ceremonies remain banned.

In the same breath, he appealed to Jamaicans in the diaspora to reconsider travelling to the island, as thousands prepare to make the annual trip.

He said the proposals were made after consultations with the church, private sector and opposition leader, adding that while there was not a general consensus there was nevertheless understanding.

He said the adjustments in curfew hours are an attempt to strike a balance between increasing economic activities and preserving health and lives.

“I'm appealing to all Jamaicans to be responsible in the way we celebrate Christmas this year. It should not be about large gatherings of family and friends, but rather we should celebrate with our immediate family, with our immediate household, and try to maintain 15 or less,” Holness urged.

“I must also make a special appeal to the diaspora. I know, as is customary, you may want to come home for Christmas... I'm not here saying don't come. I'm saying, if you don't need to travel to come for Christmas then reconsider it. If you are deciding to come, then go to the resilient corridor and help our tourism industry, but don't leave the resilient corridor to come and look for grandma and aunty. Maintain the protocols,” he insisted.

The prime minister, at the same time, cautioned that if the COVID-19 numbers “rise beyond reasonable expectations” Government will have to re-evaluate the hours.

“Keeping the curfew at 10:00 pm will depend on how well all of us take personal responsibility in observing the protocols... These are not normal times and we will not be able to celebrate Christmas in the normal way this year. Celebrating Christmas in the normal way could mean that we would have to keep our schools closed or shut down our economy even more than it is now restricted. We must continue to be vigilant and responsible over the next few months, starting with the upcoming Christmas season,” said Holness.


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