Church leaders give support ahead of Government's 7 no-movement daysFriday, August 20, 2021
BY ALICIA DUNKLEY-WILLIS
With COVID-19 cases averaging 500 a day, pushing the island's positivity rate to a staggering 41.9 per cent, Prime Minister Andrew Holness last night announced seven no-movement days designed to break the transmission of the rampaging novel coronavirus.
The prime minister made the announcement in an address to the nation hours after the heads of two of the island's umbrella church groups, which represent thousands of worshippers, indicated a willingness to sacrifice face-to-face church services and submit to no-movement weekends should the Government go that route to bring the surging number of novel coronavirus cases under control.
The no movement days are:
Sunday, August 22;
Monday, August 23;
Tuesday, August 24;
Sunday, August 29;
Monday, August 30;
Tuesday August 31; and
Sunday, September 5.
He said the normal curfew hours for the weekdays outside of those designated for no-movement will be 7:00 pm to 5:00 am the next day, except Saturday when the curfew will begin at 6:00 pm.
Stating that the island's COVID-19 case numbers are “unacceptably high and rising” Holness said the rate of hospitalisation “is beyond the capacity of our health system to cope”.
He said the most effective way of slowing transmission of the virus is to have a complete halt at a point.
He advised that Jamaicans should work from home on the no-movement days, adding that the objective is to give the Ministry of Health two periods of no-movement that will effectively break the transmission of the virus.
“This is what we hope will happen, but if people decide that they are not going to follow the advice and direction of the Government, and decide that they are going to go about their business, all of this would be in vain,” he said.
“I am appealing to everyone to make these no-movement days a success,” he added.
President of the Medical Association of Jamaica (MAJ) Dr Andrew Manning is on record as prodding the Government to implement no-movement days as a matter of urgency to contain the present surge.
On August 9 Holness, in announcing a three-week regime of tightened COVID-19 restrictions, had said Jamaicans might find themselves under at least a one-day-per-week lockdown if COVID-19 cases show no signs of slowing.
“We have not yet implemented a no-movement day; a no-movement day, however, is possible,” the prime minister said then, warning that this could probably come within another two weeks if there was no improvement in the situation with the virus in the country. “I am saying to Jamaicans to be in an expectant mode that even tighter measures could follow depending on the numbers we are seeing,” he declared then.
Yesterday, at a round-table event organised by Health and Wellness Minister Dr Christopher Tufton as part of the Government's efforts to persuade Jamaicans to sign up for its national vaccination programme, the heads of five major religious groups urged Christians and non-Christians alike to accept the COVID-19 vaccines.
Speaking with the Jamaica Observer after the event, president of the Jamaica Council of Churches (JCC) Reverend Newton Dixon said, “We have not addressed it formally, but my position is, let me use two pithy sayings – 'Necessity is the mother of invention', and the other, which is probably a little more pertinent to us, 'When trouble tek yuh, pickney shut fit yuh.'
“Our responses to the pandemic have been fluid; we have had to assess the situations and then probably recast our position. Where we are now seems to require a little more stringency. I am not going to pre-empt the Government and say make it a lockdown, but we are prepared to support any measure that seriously impacts the present situation, and the present situation is we have Delta – the positivity rate is serious,” Dixon pointed out.
The JCC represents 11 denominations with a membership of approximately 250,000.
President of the Jamaica Evangelical Alliance (JEA) and senior pastor of Hope Gospel Assembly Rev Dr Peter Garth told the Observer that, “We would support anything that would bring the numbers down”.
“We have had meetings very often with the prime minister and the minister of health and the technocrats, and some people believe that what we have done is that we meet with the Government and tell them what to do. They don't have a clue. We listen, we share, we try to encourage our members to follow the protocols, and there are times when we make requests and they are not granted,” Rev Garth told the Observer. He said one such request was in relation to an allowance for funeral services as against just burials.
“We asked the prime minister in 2020 about four times if we could have a small number and allow the body to be there for just the family, and it was on the fourth occasion, about the end of November, that he came back and said, 'Yes.' The medical persons indicated that it would be allowed but not before January 2021, and they allowed 15 persons with the body and they said to us that if we did not comply we would lose that privilege, so we have tried to comply,” he said.
“In terms of lockdowns, we have supported them in the past because we have seen the benefits, the numbers going down, the positivity rate going down; we [the numbers] are alarmingly high, so we will support anything that will save lives and keep persons from being hospitalised,” said Garth.
The JEA represents more than 20 denominations, along with para-church organisations such as the Jamaica Theological Seminary and The Salvation Army.
In the meantime, Dr Tufton said: “Any restrictions that the Government decides on and announces would not affect the vaccination programme. So, once we have the vaccination programme going on, persons are allowed to go to the vaccination centres and back home. Normally they would have an appointment, but we would emphasise some flexibility with the authorities in order to accommodate that.”