Vaccine plea

Prime Minister Andrew Holness yesterday renewed the Government’s call for Jamaicans to take the COVID-19 vaccine and called out those who are waiting to benefit from herd immunity, without themselves having to take the jab.

Announcing tweaked measures under the Disaster Risk Management Act (DRMA) in a statement to the House of Representatives, Holness said: “There are some people who say I’m going to wait and be in the 25 per cent that don’t take the vaccine, [and] that is the unfairness of all of this. If we are going to come out of this pandemic the Government cannot continue with these restrictive measures. The only sustainable way is to just get the vaccine.”

He charged that people have a social duty and responsibility to help secure herd immunity.

Over 155,600 Jamaicans have received a first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, while more than 22,206 have received their second dose.

On Sunday, the country got another 55,200 doses under the COVAX mechanism.

Holness said he was confident that the country will be receiving large volumes of vaccines shortly, as the Government presses ahead for herd immunity by next March — 65-79 per cent of the population.

The prime minister also announced an ease in the disaster risk management measures, which will see Jamaicans being able to return to beaches this summer during specified hours, at least up to June 30 when the measures expire.

Beaches and rivers are to be reopened as of June 3, but Holness cautioned that this is intended only for swimming and should not be taken as licence to flout the prevention control protocols.

“This is one that we agonised over, because the last time we opened the beaches and rivers, people just took it for free-for-all [and] I am hoping that we would have seen the consequences of that, and that we will be more responsible… this is one that we will be monitoring very closely,” he stated.

He stressed that no more than 10 people at a time will be allowed to gather in any one area of a beach, and that only swimming will be allowed. Beach parties and activities such as football and volleyball are banned.

The entertainment industry, too, could soon receive a break, as discussions are under way to facilitate limited reopening of the sector this summer. A decision is to go before Parliament within another three weeks, he advised.

Additionally, although the COVID-19 test requirement remains in place for entry into the island, people who are fully vaccinated will need to quarantine for eight days, while the 14-day quarantine order remains for those who are not vaccinated, or not fully vaccinated.

Other changes include the extension of the daily curfew start time to 9:00 pm on weekdays and 8:00 pm on Saturdays, while the 2:00 pm start time on Sundays will remain until June 30. The 5:00 am curfew end time remains on all days.

The gathering limit for worship services and weddings has been bumped up from 30 to 50.

Holness said the Government is cognisant of the possible consequences of the re-crafted measures. “I’m seeing potentially what could happen, and I’m very concerned, but I’m also seeing what is happening now in terms of the mood of the people and the economic pressures, and we are trying to balance,” he said.

Meanwhile, Holness argued that the Government has been fair in applying measures under the DRMA.

Referring to the Rick’s Caf Mocha Fest dbcle, which has sparked public outrage since last week, he pointed out that, “The DRMA does not give any authority for any such events to be held, or any leniency as to how enforcement should be made… We have applied the law equally. Some people would want to use this as a defence for their case, and we must never allow the narrative that the Government is just targeting one set of people.”

As of Monday, Jamaica recorded 48,594 cumulative cases of COVID-19, including 25,485 recoveries, and 949 deaths from the disease. The prime minister said the numbers, including hospital admissions, are trending down, but cautioned against complacency, saying, “One day’s test result doesn’t make the average”.

Out of 1,104 samples, 34 were returned positive on Monday. The country’s recovery rate is now 52.4 per cent.

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