Dancehall cyaa stallSunday, June 20, 2021
While the entertainment fraternity braces and waits in trepidation for the revelation of the announcements of the prime minister regarding the reopening of the sector, I join them in welcoming the possible return of events. However, I caution the entire sector that with great power comes great responsibility.
I support the view that thought must be given to finding innovative and feasible methods for the reopening of a very critical sector of the economy which impacts the lives of thousands. The delay has been the misplaced conception that entertainment is predominantly parties.
Other countries have tested and carved out methods in which they can safely and consistently reopen their entertainment industries and perhaps the ship has sailed on being innovative but there may yet be time to be adaptive. We have seen the UK and the Netherlands experiment with using rapid testing to reopen entertainment industries and perhaps the opportunity is ripe for us to have our own variations of these protocols tabled for consideration and consultation.
When life gives you lemons... squeeze
With approximately four per cent of the population being fully vaccinated as of June 2021, the reality is obvious that access to tests will be far easier for many than access to vaccines. Close to 500,000 tests have been administered across the island since the beginning of the pandemic. In contrast, just over 51,000 Jamaicans have been fully vaccinated.
An economic recovery cannot be dependent on the inoculation of every Jamaican or herd immunity. We must use the resources that we have to arrive at data-driven solutions, lest we continue to experience quarters of negative growth. No sector will recover whilst awaiting herd immunity. If the entertainment industry is to recover and to do so in a meaningful way, we must afford them the courtesy that has been extended to the travel, tourism, manufacturing and gastronomy industries.
The answer is in testing
Vaccines are being trickled into developing countries and if we are to await the benevolence of First World countries to receive meaningful portions of vaccines, wi jus' get jook.
The region has been scraping to secure vaccines. We have, however, been able to receive ample testing kits for COVID-19. The reliability of one testing method versus the other remains an academic debate and would be way beyond the scope of my studies. Yet, I am sure there are those among us who are of the skill and expertise to meaningfully advise and earn well-spent tax dollars to advise on the best way forward.
The United States recently gifted a donation of vaccines to our twin-island republic colleagues. The quantity should tell us that, if nothing else, our eggs ought to be spread across several baskets. We may not have the surplus of vaccines necessary to have a blitz every week, but we do have tests. Let's use what we have until we have what we need.
The Government has responded well in flattening the curve, despite much opposition. I share their concern that we have all sacrificed too much to have it eroded by the irresponsibility of a few. Out of Many, there will undoubtedly be the One — the one negligent promoter, or the one illegal party or patron that can single-handedly cause a complete reversal of these gains. Is it worth the risk?
Who feels it knows it
In 1966 Bunny Wailer released a song titled Who Feels It, and one particular line has always resonated with me. The song says:
'Every man thinks his burden is the heaviest,
But (ooh, yea, come on) they know because they feel
Who feels it knows it, Lord
Who feels it knows it, Lord
Who feels it knows it, Lord'
Many will jump on the wave of the sector reopening, but I urge the local entertainment practitioners to be the protectors and gatekeepers of their industry. Truth be told, many others have profited off their lull or absence in the space and will again seek to do so in the reopening of the industry. If this window is allowed to be breached by either their peers or persons externally, they must be mindful that they will be more severely impacted.
Whilst I hope that the prime minister and his advisors will have considered alternatives to throwing out the baby and the bath water in the event that our unruly Jamaican countenance rears its ugly head, I also fear that should the damage or spike resulting from violating or deviation from the established protocols be too severe, they may not be left with any choice but to empty the pan, baby and all.
As a sitting councillor of the KSAMC ,I have seen where we too have been impacted and I laud the mayor for his continued advocacy and engagement with the Ministry of Local Government and the Ministry of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport on ways to secure a reopening. A collaborative approach must be taken in ensuring that the responsibility is divided amongst us all in securing the sustainability of this sector. We cannot afford to be left behind while the rest of the world positions itself for recovery. The Government will lead but we must be willing to follow – follow protocols, follow rules, follow best practices.
So much hinges on our ability to manage ourselves. If we can prove faithful over a few things regarding this reopening it may mean we will have the opportunity to prove ourselves worthy of much more. The entire sector cannot afford to be closed for much longer. I trust the steady hands that have guided the ship thus far, but the time has come when we must all play our part in rowing the boat gently down the stream.
Duane C E Smith is Councillor for the Chancery Hall Division in the Kingston & St Andrew Municipal Corporation
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