Western small business owners, vaccinated people, decry Govt's shifting curfew hoursThursday, July 29, 2021
BY HORACE HINES
MONTEGO BAY, St James — With Prime Minister Andrew Holness announcing new curfew measures in response to the uptick in COVID-19 cases, many small business owners are losing patience with what they are now describing as “an enforcement problem.”
They are calling for “consistency”, adding that the new curfew hours are only affecting “those who have been complying with the rules”.
Many, they say, are neglecting a civic duty or clinging to conspiracy theories and misinformation, even as new patients arrive in emergency rooms and the nation grapples with the threat of the new Delta variant.
“There is clearly an enforcement problem where the good is now suffering for the bad,” explained Robert Green, a restaurant owner in Hopewell, Hanover.
“When you move the curfew from 11:00 pm to 8:00 pm…who are you hurting…certainly not the entertainment people or those who have been doing all the breaches. The man who has been complying and paying all his taxes is the man you are hitting the hardest.”
Winsome Phillip, another restaurant owner from Greenwood, St James, agreed.
“It makes no sense trying to obey these laws and guidelines,” she noted.
“All this Government and our prime minister do is to have this knee-jerk reaction without thinking things through. Might as well we follow everybody else and break the law; this is so sad and pathetic.”
For Smokeez by the Sea, Rosehall, owner Lowell Spence, “this is a case where those who play by the rules are being punished.”
“It doesn't hurt the entertainment sector whose members can start earlier...have their breakfast parties. This...these new curfew hours...will hurt me big time as a restaurant operator...and I am sure other restaurants in general. Now, we will have to start closing down by 6:00 pm-6:30 pm to facilitate cleaning up by 7:00 pm. There is no equity in this...just another blow to our operations. I know things were getting out of control with the uptick in COVID-19 numbers, but there has to be a way where we can strike a balance,” Spence told the Jamaica Observer West.
Janet Silvera, president of the Montego Bay Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MBCCI), argued that the spike in the number of new cases left the prime minister with no option than to tighten the screws “to ensure that less Jamaicans die, as they did in the first and second wave”.
“Obviously, the business community is disappointed that many of us, who should be wearing masks, should be following the protocols, should be doing the right thing, were not doing the right thing. As a result there is a third wave, as a result we are back to square one if we are not careful. We are imploring, we are urging citizens of this country to obey the rules and regulations set out by the Ministry of Health and Wellness and the Ministry of Local Government. The only thing that we can do at this time as a business community is support the Government.”
Meanwhile, other small business operators are also worried that the rising case rates are upending plans for school and workplace reopenings, and threatening another wave of infections that may overwhelm hospitals in many communities. They are also blaming those who have had the opportunity to take the vaccine but have so far refused to.
“It's like the sun has come up in the morning and everyone is arguing about it,” said Robert Thomas, businessman from Ironshore, St James.
“The virus is here and it's killing people, and we have a time-tested way to stop it — and we won't do it. It's an outrage.”
Others are expressing even more outrage. “I've become angrier as time has gone on,” said Joan Anderson, a scuba diving teacher from Sandy Bay, Hanover.
“Now there is a vaccine and a light at the end of the tunnel, and some people are choosing not to walk toward it,” she said. “You are making it darker for my family and others like mine by making that choice. It's time to start blaming the unvaccinated folks, not the regular folks.
“It's the unvaccinated folks who are not following protocols who are letting us down.”
Dr Delroy Fray, clinical coordinator at the Cornwall Regional Hospital, described the vaccination hesitancy as suicidal.
“...There is also a trend now that people are believing that it is not necessary for them to take the vaccine. My personal opinion ...is that is that if the vaccine is available and you refuse to take the vaccine it really borders on suicide. This is my personal feeling, it is not the feeling of the Ministry of Health or anyone. It is Dr Fray's personal feeling,” Dr Fray argued.
“ I think if we are going to capture this thing and control it, we will encourage people to take the vaccine and adhere to the protocols and the deadly strain that you hear we will be able to control it as best as possible.”
Prime Minister Andrew Holness announced an adjustment in the curfew hours as well as other coronavirus containment measures, as the country sees a recent spike in cases of the virus.
Effective Tuesday, July 27, the new curfew hours will be from 8:00 pm to 5:00 am on weekdays.
On Sundays and the upcoming public holidays — Emancipation Day, which will be observed on Monday, August 2, and Independence Day on Friday, August 6 — the curfew time will be 3:00 pm to 5:00 am.
The prime minister said that the tightening of the curfew hours is to limit movement.
He noted that previously announced COVID-19 measures were to have remained in place until Tuesday, August 10, “but based on the rapid increase in all our key indicators it is clear that we need to act now”.
“I know there are some issues raised regarding worship time, and so forth, but we ask for the understanding of the public as we go through… another challenging time,” he said while addressing a digital press conference on Monday, July 26.
Turning to other measures, Holness informed that tighter operating hours have also been put in place for beaches and rivers.
These establishments will open from 6:00 am to 4:00 pm, Mondays to Saturdays; and 6:00 am to 2:00 pm on Sundays and public holidays.
The adjusted measures will remain in place until August 10.
Holness said that the country's COVID situation will be closely monitored over the course of the next two weeks to determine the measures that will apply, effective August 11.
“Our focus in crafting those measures will be on trying to control spreads sufficiently to allow us to reopen schools to facilitate structured face-to-face learning in September. That is an imperative for the Government and, indeed, for all the parents and children who have had a really very difficult time during this pandemic,” he said.