'We've exhaled', JMEA President Pandohie welcomes relaxed COVID measures, but...Wednesday, June 23, 2021
KINGSTON, Jamaica— “I think we're exhaling this morning,” President of the Jamaica Manufacturers and Exporters Association (JMEA), Richard Pandohie, said when asked by the Jamaica Observer to comment on the measures announced on Tuesday by Prime Minister Andrew Holness to further open up the local economy.
Among the relaxed COVID-19 measures announced are a shortened curfew, the reopening of the entertainment industry, more people being allowed to worship and the abandonment of the requirement for people who are fully vaccinated to be placed in quarantine on arrival in Jamaica, if a negative PCR test is returned.
“The prime minister announcing the relaxation of the measures around the curfew hours and in particular the quarantine period requirement for Jamaican nationals fully vaccinated coming home were two things that were strongly advocated for so we really appreciate those,” Pandohie said.
“I think the change in the curfew hours will also have a positive impact on commerce and it will reduce congestion,” Pandohie, who is also Group CEO of manufacturing company Seprod, added.
Regarding the reduced time in quarantine for people who produce a negative COVID-19 test, Pandohie said this was an incentive for people to get vaccinated.
“We have to start doing business again, we have to start travelling, we have to get the economy back on track,” he noted.
But, despite his obvious joy at the relaxation of the COVID measures, Pandohie has some concern relating to the reopening of the entertainment sector, as only about six per cent of the Jamaican population have received one dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine. About two per cent of Jamaicans are fully vaccinated, one of the worse vaccination rates in the world.
“We feel their [people who earn from entertainmen] pain and they've gone through a lot in the last 15 months. I, for one am happy for them but I'm also cautious. I believe that the reopening of the sectors and the economy should be linked to people getting vaccinated,” Pandohie argued.
He pointed to Europe where fans who are vaccinated have been allowed back inside stadiums in their thousands. This is also taking place inside the United States where stadia are once more being filled with enthusiastic fans.
“We have to create an incentive for people to get vaccinated, for people to say, this thing is going to change my life so I think the reopening should also be linked to that,” the JMEA boss argued.
For people who say we don't have the vaccine, Pandohie is confident that the doses will arrive. He stressed that until then, “We're highly vulnerable”.
The Seprod CEO pointed to the United Kingdom where a significant number of its citizens are fully vaccinated, yet the full reopening of the country was delayed by a month because of the Delta strain of the coronavirus that is wreaking havoc there.
“They're expressing real concerns about this variant and we don't have a vaccinated population,” he observed.
Nonetheless, Pandohie said it was great news about the rebounding in the tourism industry which is showing good occupancy numbers.
“We welcome the relaxation measures but we have to make sure we keep up the enforcement, get the vaccines and get the population vaccinated because the risk level and the vulnerability are still very high,” he concluded.
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