Still in the danger zone

Jamaicans are to continue under the regime of tightened curfew hours and restrictions for at least another four weeks an apologetic Prime Minister Andrew Holness indicated last evening, even while warning those he said seem “hell-bent” on continuing to flout the COVID-19 safety measures that outbreaks of the virus could occur in their ranks as the country is still within the “danger zone”.

Since February the country has been subjected to stricter measures including weekend lockdowns and tighter curfew hours brought on as the country battles the effects of a second surge in positive COVID-19 cases which saw a higher number of deaths and hospitals bursting at the seams. Those measures expired yesterday, but the extension keeps them in effect until June 3.

Speaking in the House of Representatives in downtown Kingston yesterday, the prime minister said data clearly show that the tighter measures implemented in the last few weeks have been effective “in slowing down the virus” with the number of positive cases and hospitalisations trending downwards. He, however, said it would be “premature” for Jamaicans to rejoice in the downward trend in cases as “We are not yet out of the danger zone.”

According to the prime minister, up to Monday there were 48 positive cases out of 1,172 samples tested. As a result, health officials have recommended that the Administration keep the measures that are presently in place “for at least three incubation cycles, meaning for at least the next six weeks”.

He said it is expected that at the end of that period the country should be well outside of the danger zone at which point “relaxation” of the restrictions could be considered.

In the meantime, he appealed to Jamaicans who have been experiencing difficulties, including financial misfortune.

“Even though we are hearing good news, we are not going to make the error of opening up; bear with us for another four weeks. We know it’s rough, people are losing their houses, mortgages are coming due; the business sector, the entertainment sector, the restaurant sector are complaining, the sports sector; we know, we know, we know, but we also know what could happen if we don’t take the measures now,” Holness said.

He said, while some adjustments have been made, some imperatives remain the same. In that light, weekday curfews are to remain at 8:00 pm to 5:00 am while weekend curfews have been modified for the next four weeks.

“The curfew will now being at 6:00 pm on Saturdays and at 2:00 pm on Sundays and end at 5:00 am the following day,” Holness said.

He also said that for the Labour Day holiday, which will be observed on Monday, May 24, there will be an all-day curfew.

“So that will be a no-movement day. Therefore, on Sunday, May 23rd the curfew will begin at 2:00 pm and will go right through Monday and end at 5:00 am on Tuesday the 25th of May. So there will be some adjustments, which will be announced for Labour Day…the day will be all about working at home. I certainly will be working at home…we are encouraging all Jamaicans to stay home and work,” he stated.

In the meantime, the prime minister said the age limit for the stay-at-home measure remains at 60 until June 3, 2021. In addition, the work-from-home measures for the public sector have been extended. Private sector employers are being encouraged to follow suit.

The limit for public gatherings remains at 10. Funeral services are still banned with only burials being permitted with a 15-person limit. The same 15-person limit applies for weddings. Churches, however, are still being allowed to have services with 30 worshippers in attendance. Adjustments have however been made for public entities to hold events limited to handing overs, launches, ground breaking, and opening ceremonies, but with no more than 15 people present.

“The reason for this is, we have several projects that we have to launch officially to get them started. The idea is that all of this would be done virtually so that the only persons present would be the minister and permanent secretary,” he said, adding that the intent is that these events be broadcast and televised.

The restrictions for markets and vending in public arcades as well as the public transportation sector remain unchanged. Public beaches and rivers remain closed as well as bars, and attractions. The ban on events such as concerts, parties, round robins, and boat parties will continue until June 2.

And travel restrictions currently in place are to be extended to include India, and Trinidad and Tobago. The ban on travel to and from Argentina, Brazil, and Peru are being further extended based on the spike being experienced in those countries.

Jamaican health authorities last week signalled that a third wave could result in up to 180 deaths weekly if people were to become complacent.

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