COVID-19 problems for political campaigns

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COVID-19 problems for political campaigns

BY ARTHUR HALL
Editor-at-Large
halla@jamaicaobserver.com

Thursday, August 06, 2020

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THE island's two major political parties could find themselves scrambling to meet the Ministry of Health's COVID-19 protocols when they hit the road to campaign during the lead up to the next general election expected in a matter of weeks.

While the protocols do not specifically speak to political meetings, they cover small outdoor events such as concerts, parties, round robins, religious celebrations, and festivals.

These are permitted during the hours of 6:00 am to 10:00 pm, and the operator of such an event should ensure that there is social distancing and the wearing of masks.

The organisers are also required to ensure temperatures are checked for each person admitted to the event, and that the number of people at the event at any time shall not exceed whichever is the lower:

(i) 280 people, with no more than 250 being patrons and no more than 30 being performers or event staff; or

(ii Such number as would, based on the square footage of the venue, allow for compliance with the social distancing requirements [of six feet] with the appropriate signage and distance markers.

The protocols also demand that patrons are not permitted to gather at any bar area at the event, and only individuals purchasing or collecting drinks shall be permitted in the bar area; that the points for entry shall be separate from the points for exit; that hand-washing or hand sanitisation facilities are provided at each entrance to the event venue; and the rest rooms are cleaned and sanitised at least once every hour during the event.

During a tour of Clarendon North Central on Tuesday, JLP leader and Prime Minister of Jamaica Andrew Holness, with his face mask in place, repeatedly reminded cheering supporters that the COVID-19 pandemic remained a threat to Jamaica as he urged them to observe the protocols.

“You may be wondering why I choose to deliver my remarks in my mask,” Holness said to attendees at a ceremony to open a new water supply system in Mocho.

“The COVID threat still exists, and as I was driving in I noticed that many persons were not wearing masks, and they were not properly socially distanced or physically distanced. But I want to say this to you, we are noticing an increase in the number of cases and the number of persons hospitalised.

“We are not going to take any chances with this COVID thing. We have been trying to balance lives and livelihood, but you can't have any livelihood if you are dead,” added Holness as he urged people to observe the rules designed to prevent the spread of the virus.

“COVID still a keep,” declared Holness, in a mantra that he was to repeat at every stop in the constituency.

But there was little indication that his message was getting through to the several Labourities who followed him across the constituency, as masks seemed optional, and many of those who had their masks on wore them incorrectly.

Social distancing was also out the window as people jostled for space under tents to listen to the political leaders, including Holness.

And while touring the St Ann North Eastern constituency yesterday, Holness told supporters that while Jamaicans are used to campaigns with large crowds and tight gatherings, this can no longer be the case in the new normal. As he distributed masks, he urged the crowd gathered to stand six feet apart from each other and wear their masks as instructed by health officials.

The COIVID-19 protocol is an issue that Julian Robinson, general secretary of the People's National Party (PNP), admitted that his party will have to deal with on the campaign trail.

“We will have to find innovative measures as it would be difficult to ensure the COVID protocols are followed at the mass meetings,” Robinson told the Jamaica Observer yesterday.

“It is something that we are addressing, and we have some ideas that we will be implementing,” added Robinson.


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