‘STILL TOO EARLY’ - Next few weeks to determine if entertainment gets Christmas break
Persons anxious for a restart of entertainment activities have been told to hang tight and see the extent to which Jamaica is able to secure reductions in the number of COVID-19 infections by mid-November.
"I know the entertainment industry has been under stress because of the restrictions, and it is a conversation that we are having, but a lot depends on what happens over the next few weeks," Health Minister Dr Christopher Tufton said yesterday.
The entertainment sector was shut down in March after Jamaica recorded its first few cases of the novel coronavirus. It then reopened under strict guidelines on July 21, but Local Government Minister Desmond McKenzie said that there were rampant breaches, resulting in further measures being imposed on the sector.
Entertainment events have been labelled as superspreaders of the disease, which has claimed 202 lives in Jamaica, as of Wednesday, and has infected 8,927 persons.
Worldwide, COVID-19 has infected 42 million people and killed 1.1 million. More than 40,000 new deaths have been reported over the past week.
During a press briefing on Wednesday, Prime Minister Andrew Holness announced that while the current 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. daily curfew would be extended to November 16, a downward trend in COVID numbers could result in a controlled relaxation of some of the measures for Christmas.
Yesterday, Tufton said that there are "encouraging signs" that the numbers are tapering off as the country is seeing more recovered cases than positive cases.
He, however, noted that the US and Britain, from which Jamaica's travels come, are experiencing increases in their COVID case numbers.
"We have to be very cautious, very careful, that we watch those cases carefully because Christmas is also a time of travel and a time of family members or friends coming back home. But if you have significant cases in those jurisdictions, then it could pose a risk to the population," Tufton said.
The minister urged Jamaicans to continue to manage the virus, adding that "in a few weeks -- two, three weeks -- if we see the benefits of that investment in managing the process, I believe that there could be a basis to say to Cabinet that we can relax the levers to allow for a good Christmas."
Meanwhile, Howard McIntosh, chairman of the Entertainment Advisory Board, says while the body regularly communicates with the Government, it is too early to tell what would happen for the Christmas period.
"We don't get there yet. Right now, we just trying to sort out how to get the numbers down so we can proceed the best way possible. We can't talk about Christmas yet," he said. "Right now decisions are being made based on data collection and I'm sure once specifics are agreed upon, that information will be relayed to the public."