Unruly partygoers cause shutdown of more than 30 beaches, rivers

Unruly partygoers cause shutdown of more than 30 beaches, rivers

Government tightens restrictions following reports of free-for-all jam sessions

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

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

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LESS than 24 hours after the Jamaica Observer Online first reported that scores of people were partying at the famous Spanish Bridge attraction in St Mary, with no regard for the COVID-19 protocols, Minister of Local Government and Community Development Desmond McKenzie has ordered its immediate closure.

The Spanish River Bridge is among 17 beaches and 19 rivers which McKenzie has ordered closed effective this Friday, pending a meeting with the operators of these facilities.

“On July 15, I announced the easing of restrictions to allow the gradual return of entertainment events, effective July 21. It was made very clear that all the public health protocols, among other rules, had to be followed so that this breathing space could be expanded,” McKenzie told a sitting of the House of Representatives yesterday.

“Let me be frank Mr Speaker, I am very disappointed that after all the consultations that were had with the stakeholders in the entertainment sector, and the very public knowledge of the danger of COVID-19, breaches have been the norm since the relaxations took effect.

“In many instances, events are being held without any permit even being sought from the local authorities. In other cases where permits were issued, the terms and conditions were blatantly disregarded by the promoters,” added McKenzie, as he confirmed claims from residents in the area of St Mary Western, where the Spanish River is located, that the rules were being ignored at the mainly Sunday parties.

“It is a recipe for disaster and a COVID-19 hot spot in the making,” one concerned resident told the Observer, as she noted that the parties keep attracting more patrons each Sunday and seem to be getting “bigger and bigger”.

“There are no rules or no laws in the White River valley, near the Spanish bridge, where everything goes and nobody is answerable to anybody,” declared another resident who lives metres from the party spot, which is close to the St Ann/St Mary border.

That was a concern underscored by McKenzie as he told the House of Representatives that after further discussions with players in the entertainment sector, and other stakeholders since the rules were relaxed, the Government has decided to introduce revised protocols.

“In other words … this window of opportunity, this breathing space for the entertainment sector, will only remain open to those promoters, hosts and patrons who obey the rules,” declared McKenzie.

Among the changes is that small outdoor events, such as outdoor concerts, parties, tailgate parties, round robins, launches and festivals, with the necessary permits will be allowed every Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday between the hours of 6:00 am and 10:00 pm.

“All promotions for events must include COVID-19 protocols, referring specifically to wearing of masks, sanitisation and physical distancing. The promoters and patrons must observe government orders regarding closure before curfew times, sanitisation protocols, physical distancing of at least six feet between individuals, mandatory wearing of masks and temperature checks, especially on entry,” said McKenzie.

The minister warned that any person, venue and/or sound system found to be in breach of the permit granted by the respective municipal corporation will be barred for six months from obtaining a permit for entertainment events.

“Any promoter, venue, sound system owner or operator who fails to comply with these protocols is liable on conviction to a maximum fine of $1 million and/or 12 months' imprisonment under the Disaster Risk Management Act,” warned McKenzie.

Among the beaches and rivers ordered closed are the Bob Marley Beach, Cane River Falls and Hope River in St Andrew; Winnifred Breach, Frenchman's Cove and Boston Beach in Portland; Reggae Falls and Roaring River in St Thomas; and Half Moon Bay in Trelawny.


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