Soon, soon!

Soon, soon!

Gov't develops COVID-19 campaign protocol as PM gets ready to ring the bell

Observer staff reporter

Monday, August 10, 2020

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MONTEGO BAY, St James — General secretary of the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) Dr Horace Chang says a COVID-19 protocol is being developed for the campaign leading up to the general election, the date of which, he said, Prime Minister Andrew Holness has promised to announce “soon, soon”.

“There is [a] full protocol being put out by the Ministry of Health, and we will publish that very soon. We are going to do a booklet of it and circulate it to our candidates, but COVID-19 is here for some time, and this election will be run under COVID-19,” Dr Chang said during a press conference following the meeting of the party's central executive, the highest decision-making body outside of conference, held at the Montego Bay Convention Centre, yesterday.

“The protocols will be clearly articulated so that the constituents can maintain them,” he said.

Dr Chang conceded, however, that with Jamaica's political culture, it will be difficult to rein in some party supporters to adhere to the COVID-19 protocols during the campaign period.

“We know it will be a challenge. The tradition of Jamaica's politics is highly emotional, highly engaging, will pose a challenge, but if you see a picture from our central executive meeting, we maintained the six-foot apart [guideline] in there. That's why we came to the convention centre, and we are encouraging all candidates to have their organisation prepared to deal with COVID-19. In other words, the supervisors will be out there; rather than helping to crowd the candidates, they will be helping to keep the social distance.”

Meanwhile, party Chairman Robert Montague revealed that the party has mandated the candidates to establish COVID-19 protocol officers for the campaign period.

“I want to emphasise the new position within our campaign is the COVID compliance protocol officer. It is a very critical position, and the Jamaica Labour Party is seeking the adherence very, very seriously going forward,” Montague said.

He added: “As a matter of fact, the central executive actually encouraged that each candidate in their campaign team to appoint COVID-19 protocol officer. That person's job is to ensure that [for] all aspects of the campaign the protocols are observed. In all aspects of the campaign, whether you doing house-to-house, whether you doing social visits, doing a walk, whatever activity is being done must be done according to the protocols established by the Ministry of Health and Wellness.”

Attorney General Marlene Malahoo Forte has warned political supporters that if they are found in breach of the established COVID-19 protocols they will be prosecuted and face a maximum fine of $1 million or serve imprisonment of up to 12 months, according to the law.

“The order applies to everyone in Jamaica, and they are there for your safety. We are not singling out anyone. It does not matter what activity is taking place, what season it is, we know that we need persons to remain safe and healthy and abiding by the law because the order is a law enforceable on the books of Jamaica,” the Member of Parliament for St James West Central said.

Dr Chang also underscored that strict adherence to the COVID-19 protocols will be expected during the campaign leading up to the general election for those under COVID-19 quarantine orders.

“Where they have a quarantine order at home and they breach it, they will be prosecuted, whether in campaign or out of campaign. They can be prosecuted, and will be prosecuted if they breach the quarantine order,” he stressed.

In the meantime, Dr Chang said the JLP will be fielding a record 18 female candidates for the upcoming polls.

“We have a full slate of 63 candidates. On this occasion we have 18 female candidates; the largest number of women who have participated in a general election to date. We are proud of having that number of women participating in the political arena,” Chang said.

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