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FREEDOM


After months of lockdown under the Disaster Risk Management Act (DRMA), public beaches and rivers were reopened last Thursday and hundreds of Jamaicans dived into the waters yesterday, the first Sunday after the restrictions had been lifted.

With the joy of being able to swim and play in the sand on a public beach becoming a reality after a lengthy shutdown to reduce the spread of the novel coronavirus, an ecstatic eight-year-old, Tariq Wilson, beamed with joy at Hellshire Beach in Portmore, St Catherine, yesterday.

“The feeling of not going out was very hard for me. It felt different than before. All my life I was free to go out on the road and it was like I was addicted to the road. Since ‘corona’ came it has been a struggle for me and my family to go out and have some fun sometimes,” said the smiling eight-year-old.

The Government gave the green light for public beaches and rivers to reopen, effective June 3, for swimming, bathing, and exercising purposes from 6:00 am to 6:00 pm, Monday to Saturday and from 6:00 am to 1:00 pm on Sundays. No beach parties or group games are permitted.

But Tariq had no interest in hosting a party or games session. He just wanted to enjoy the outdoors.

His mother, Melissa Henry, told the Jamaica Observer that online schooling has been particularly frustrating for him.

“Wi a try fi di protocols, but at the same time the kids are at home and online schooling is kinda frustrating, so wi just carry dem out to have a little fun. It was hard sometimes because they would get frustrated.

“Sometimes we would try to do some games to kinda calm them down. That works sometimes, but they want to go outside mostly. It’s good that wi get free up. We feel great being out because wi tired a di house,” she expressed.

St Catherine-based recording artiste Jasper Henry rushed with his children and girlfriend to Hellshire Beach yesterday to finally escape what he described as a “prison”.

“It’s a good feeling and we are excited. It’s a relief. It’s like a prison break. Wi been in prison for so long, from last year. My God man, it’s a good feeling,” said Henry.

The mother of one of his children, Kerry-Ann Reid, said she was glad to finally be out of a “cage” and enjoy the warmth of the Caribbean Sea.

“When the prime minister said it was opened, we said we have to go,” said Reid.

Cockburn Pen, St Andrew, resident Vete Cooke and his family, including children and grandchildren, prepared a feast and decided that Hellshire was where they would devour it all.

“Mi come beach before the COVID-19 and a di first mi come back yah now. And is my daughter dem arrange di thing and seh, ‘Watch yah nuh, di beach kinda free up for a while, so we ago tek a dip today and prepare some drink and food.’ Wi buy some festival and thing. Mi so glad because it hot a day time. Mi deh pon di road with sales work and mi travel all a di parish dem and mi haffi run di air conditioning right through,” said Cooke.

At the Caymanas River, also in St Catherine, men who had one intention, which was to collect an admission fee of $300 from scores who turned up yesterday morning for a swim or to hang out with friends, stood guard at the entrance.

Eager to unleash their bottled up frustration, people paid the requested fee and proceeded to swim or entertain themselves.

One church group used the freedom to baptise members at the river, which has been a popular meeting place for church groups over the years.

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