Prime Minister Andrew Holness has put the country on notice that the measures imposed under the Disaster Risk Management Act (DRMA) to curtail the spread of the novel coronavirus will come to an end within weeks.
“The DRMA has reached its limit, the country has reached its tolerance limit for restrictions. In the management of the pandemic there is no general agreement as to what should be done, and any action you take is subject to high criticism, some unfair, some without basis, and some with great political consequences,” Holness said on Thursday as he addressed the House of Representatives following the ceremonial opening of Parliament, marking the start of the 2022/23 fiscal year.
Furthermore, he said, the society is being divided along social, economic, and vaccination status lines, a situation which has become a national distraction.
He also announced a reduction in curfew hours over the next two weeks from 10:00 pm to 5:00 am to 11:00 pm to 5:00 am.
“This Government wants to move definitively and decisively towards returning the country to normalcy. Every Jamaican now knows what to do to protect themselves. Our job is to provide people with information [and] health care, but at the end of the day free people with free will make their decision,” the prime minister said.
“The average Jamaican is facing a very difficult time. All the prices are going up, incomes have not moved, there are many Jamaicans who are still unemployed from the pandemic. Right now the weight of livelihood is stronger in the decision-making process. We have to get people back into their livelihoods,” Holness emphasised.
The controlled entry and quarantine procedures are also being reviewed for decision by the time the latest orders under the DRMA expire in another two weeks.
Holness advised, too, that schools will return to full face-to-face classes following the midterm break, which will begin on Ash Wednesday, February 17.
The Jamaica Teachers' Association (JTA), while happy for the opportunity for consistent face-to-face school, has called for proper resources to ensure COVID-19 safety protocols can be observed at each institution.
This week, JTA President Winston Smith told the Jamaica Observer that the association is calling on the Ministry of Education to ensure that schools are provided with the support needed to ensure the safety and security of both students and workers.
“We cannot afford [for] the school's safety supplies to finish, so there ought to be a constant supply to each school while face-to-face engagements continue,” Smith said.
Opposition spokeswoman on education and training Dr Angella Brown Burke has also reiterated that children need to return to the classroom, but stressed that schools must receive full support to allow that to happen safely.