12-hour curfew extended

THE islandwide 12-hour curfew which began last month has been extended by Prime Minister Andrew Holness amid a consistent increase in the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the country.

Holness made the announcement during a virtual press briefing last evening at Jamaica House in St Andrew, ahead of news from Health and Wellness Minister Dr Christopher Tufton that Jamaica had recorded an additional two cases of COVID-19, bringing the total to 471.

Noting that the country is on a projected path of a 10-day doubling curve, Holness said the national curfew has been extended and will begin at 6:00 pm tomorrow. It is expected to end on May 13, at 6:00 am.

The nightly curfew first took effect on April 1.

Other enforcement measures under the Disaster Risk Management Act, which expire tomorrow, will be extended to May 31.

They include: the duty of employers to provide transportation for exempted workers for curfew hours; people 70 years and over to remain at home; gatherings in public places must not exceed 10 people at a time; physical distancing of six feet must be maintained during any gathering; the mandatory wearing of masks in a public place; operating hours for markets, vending and public transportation centres (6:00 am to 4:00 pm Mondays to Saturdays); operating hours for businesses (8:00 am to 4:00 pm); restrictions to barbershops and hair salons; gas stations (6:00 am to 6:00 pm); public transportation (5:00 am to 7:00 pm); closure of bars and other places of amusement, beaches, rivers; work from home measures; and measures regarding the business process outsourcing.

Holness said some of these measures are expected to last beyond the pandemic and may become a “feature of the society”.

He said the Cabinet spent a great deal of time discussing the issue of bars. “A bar in Jamaica, aside from the entertainment and the social gathering that happens there, is a significant economic activity. Our estimates show that there are in excess of 10,000 bars in Jamaica.

“We’re studying the impact of the measures on the people whose livelihood depend on the bars and we’re very sympathetic to that situation, and in a few days we should be able to say to the public exactly what measures we can take,” the prime minister stated.

He said Cabinet has been examining the impact of the measures taken on the economy, which have been “considerable” but are necessary to contain and control the spread of COVID-19.

Holness said the measures have been “very effective” in doing this.

He said, generally, the curfew hours have worked very well, despite the impact on the quick-service industry.

“The curfew measures, however, by virtue of limiting movement, would have significantly curtailed the spread of the virus and we will be contemplating adjustments to the curfew hours. But, again, it all has to be based on what the science is telling us, what the public health advice is, and we have to weigh that in the balance of what is in the public interest,” said Holness.

He said already Cabinet has started to promote the full reopening of certain sectors, starting with agriculture and construction.

“Today letters were sent off to all ministers and all the agencies under the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation that all backlogs of approval permitting that the effort must be made to bring those forward and increase the rate of approvals for projects. We need to get our economy started again, resuscitated, raring to go again, even in COVID, but we will do so in a smart way. We will do so in a measured way, and we will never sacrifice the public’s health,” said Holness.

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