Holness: Closing borders would be an economic negative

Holness: Closing borders would be an economic negative

Staff reporter

Sunday, August 09, 2020

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BARRETT TOWN, St James — Prime Minister Andrew Holness has underscored that the likelihood of closing Jamaica's borders as a result of any spike in the coronavirus would trigger a negative impact on the economy, akin to cutting off the proverbial nose to spite the face.

“The prospect of closing our borders for an extended period is not one that is feasible. It is not! We would be cutting off our nose to spite our face,” stressed the prime minister.

“So Jamaica, more than other countries, must learn very quickly to live with COVID-19. That is the reality. We must learn how to live with this disease. When there is an outbreak the effective strategy is to close and prevent movement, the most effective strategy. But, it is the most deleterious on the economy because you not only stop the spread of the virus, but you shut down your economy, literally,” Holness said.

Holness was speaking on Friday, following a tour of several projects in Barrett Town, St James, carried out by the Jamaica Social Investment Fund.

The prime minister also emphasised that the country's economy is heavily reliant on tourism.

“We are an economy where more than 40 per cent of our foreign exchange is dependent on tourism. And though sometimes we may have an ambivalent relationship with tourism, the truth is that the economy cannot survive long without it unless we diversify into other areas and that takes time,” he argued. “Even outside of that, Jamaica is an internationalised country. People come here for all kind of reasons: for our culture, our music, our food, our people, for business and investment, people have made Jamaica their home.”

He further stated that if Jamaica does not remain vigilant in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, then the second wave could be even more devastating than the first.

“Our success can easily become our failure. If we believe that because we have had such low death rates and relatively low numbers in terms of overall infection and that the worst has passed, then we are only fooling ourselves and lulling ourselves into a sense of complacency which will bring in a second wave, which could be potentially more dangerous than the first. We have seen this happen in many countries before,” Holness said.

He lamented that people with COVID-19 symptoms are moving about the population and breaching the control measures that not only prevent the spread of the disease, but the closure of our economy.

He warned of imposing punitive actions on those who breach the protocols, such as failing to practise social distancing and refusing to wear masks.

“We are going to head therefore in a more difficult period managing the pandemic if we have to go to enforcing the rules. But should I leave those persons, the weak fences among us to cause us to have to at each point of an outbreak shut down entire communities, shut down entire parishes, even move to shut down the country? What about you who have to go to work and send your children to school? So I have no choice in the matter,” the prime minister noted.

“I have a duty as prime minister that even if the public does not believe it is in their own interest, I have a duty to protect the public's interest. Now our first order of business is to appeal to the reasonableness of the Jamaican people to encourage and educate them to follow the rule, if they do not, then we must enforce the rules.”

During the tour, a new sign was unveiled at the entrance of the community which saw the road named the Edmund Bartlett Boulevard in honour of the St James East Central Member of Parliament.

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