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No Christmas grand market in MoBay

BY KIMONE FRANCIS
Senior staff reporter
francisk@jamaicaobserver.com

Saturday, November 28, 2020

MONTEGO Bay Mayor Leeroy Williams says there will be no grand market in the second city next month as COVID-19 cases climb steadily in the western end of the island.

Williams made the announcement during Thursday's virtual COVID Conversations held at S Hotel in St James.

Prime Minister Andrew Holness on Tuesday announced a one-hour extension of the 9:00 pm nightly curfew beginning next month, effectively crippling the Christmas Eve tradition during which vendors often ply their trade into Christmas morning.

Holness said the event will have to take place within the hours prescribed.

On Thursday Mayor Williams went a step further, insisting that the customary event will not take place in the city.

“They [vendors], of course, would want more time because it's moving towards the festive season but as the mayor, frankly, I have a problem with the anticipated crowd that we'll have during the season. You're probably aware that I am trying desperately to get the vendors off the main street because that's where most of them congregate.

“They have been asking about the grand market; that, I am not going to accommodate because that is going to have people gathering all over the place. So, I want to make sure that that is prevented,” the mayor said in response to Health and Wellness Minister Dr Christopher Tufton, who asked about residents' response to the 10:00 pm curfew.

He said the move is geared towards ensuring that residents, by sacrificing activities this season, are able to celebrate many more Christmases in the years to come.

Asked if other arrangements could be made to facilitate sales in a different setting, Williams encouraged vendors to “come out earlier”.

“To be quite frank, we do not really discourage this because we know that by the curfew time they will be off the street. They will say that it's COVID time [and] they need to make some money so we should give them a little more time, but strictly the curfew must be observed,” he said.

St James has recorded 1,098 COVID-19 cases since March, with 356 recoveries. Twenty-three COVID-19-related deaths have been registered so far in the parish.

The mayor also urged residents to refrain from holding or attending parties which, under the Disaster Risk Management Act, are prohibited.

“You can party but you'll run the risk of probably seeing or having your last Christmas, whereas if you forego the partying you will be able to see several other Christmases. So, I personally want to appeal to the citizens in and around Montego Bay to make sure that they observe the safety protocol. Mask up before you talk up.

“Of course, the social distancing is very important as well as doing your sanitising and, of course, washing your hands frequently — because as far as the experts are concerned this is the only way they see us preventing the spreading of this deadly virus,” he said.

Dr Tufton, meanwhile, said although the protocols run contrary to the traditions and customs of Christmas, all are necessary.

“This is why we continue to encourage and hopefully motivate persons to find other ways to make it work,” he said.