The Jamaican government has announced that the country’s entertainment sector will reopen in what has been outlined by Prime Minister Andrew Holness as a structured reopening that will allow small and large events while also extending the curfew.
On Tuesday, the Prime Minister’s announcement was welcomed by players in the entertainment sector as the industry was shuttered for 15 months, with thousands of people depending on the informal sector for their livelihoods struggling to get by.
According to PM Holness, the reopening of the entertainment industry will bring much relief to the sector, which he acknowledged has been severely impacted by the measures imposed to contain the spread of Covid-19, which included curfews at 9 PM, a limit on gathering, and a ban on events including church activities and funerals.
The new measures are expected to bring a much-needed injection of economic activity into the island, which has been grappling with the Jamaican dollar depreciating rapidly due to the decrease of foreign income and economic activity as well as high food prices.
“We believe Madam Speaker that this will allow almost full return in terms of business capacity to the quick serve industries and it will start the phasing in of entertainment sector.”
The Prime Minister added that the plans for breakfast parties being held in the constituencies have shown that there is general compliance with the curfew orders.
In his announcement in the House of Representatives, the Prime Minister noted that the new protocols, which will take effect on July 1, 2021, to August 11, 2021, contemplates events of two types being allowed to take place. These are small events which means that the patrons and staff are no more than 100 in total and larger events, which can be more than 100 persons. However, permits for these events will have to be received from specified government agencies, which will review and monitor as part of the government’s overseeing of the reopening.
According to the Prime Minister, smaller events will need permits from their local municipal corporations. However, large events must apply to the Ministry of Culture, Gender, Entertainment, and Sport for approval. Once the event meets the requirements, the Ministry will then forward the application to the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management, which will then consult with the Ministry of Health and Wellness, the municipal corporation, and any other relevant authority before approval is granted.
This means that large events mean that stage shows, church conventions, conferences or crusades, and related activities can be held.
In the meantime, the government will be providing support to the sector by allowing certain government-owned venues to be used rent-free. However, organizers would be required to cover only operating costs such as utilities and security costs.
The Prime Minister noted, “we want the industry to achieve its full potential, but this potential is inhibited because a large sector of the industry is informal and unregulated. Entertainment is business and we must begin to treat it as a legitimate economic enterprise. We also need to look at how we can use legislation and policy to incentivize the reset of the entertainment industry.”
The Prime Minister also announced that there would be a reopening event hosted by the government, which will be used as a model to “demonstrate how a large event could be hosted with the proper protocols.”
The event is scheduled for July 1, 2021, at the Port Royal Cruise Terminal.
The Prime Minister notes that this will be a fitting way to recognize and celebrate International Reggae Day.
The Prime Minister, however, warned that in spite of the changes to the protocols, Jamaicans are urged to not be complacent.
“I want every Jamaican to understand that the recrafted measures that we have announced are to enable many persons who have not had an income for several months to finally get a chance to return to work and start providing for their families,” Mr. Holness wrote on his official Twitter account.
However, he added that “the risks of a third wave remain ever present. Whether or not it materializes is up to all of us. If we take personal responsibility to observe the infection prevention and control protocols that have been proven to work, we will avoid it….let us therefore not view the new measures as a free-for-all. Let us commit to being responsible and diligent so that in the process of trying to preserve the livelihoods of so many who have not been able to earn a living since the pandemic began, we do not endanger lives,” he said.
Meanwhile, several entertainment players welcomed the news as announcements for upcoming parties started circulating online. Among them are the I Love Soca party series advertised for July, as well as Romeich Cook Out for July 2 by Romeich Major, Shenseea’s manager.
The promoters for Dream Weekend, Scott Dunn and Kamal Bankay, who is also chairman of the entertainment committee who has been advocating for the reopening of the industry, were also recognized as playing a pivotal role in having the sector open.
In the coming days, it’s expected that more events will be announced, including the anticipated “Emancipendence” weekend activities which include parties across the island at the start of August.
While thousands of Jamaicans welcomed the announcement of the structured reopening, Opposition Leader Mark Golding cautioned that the country was “skating on very thin ice.”
Golding added that the island has not achieved a significant amount of vaccinated persons, which means the island’s population is still facing a threat to life from Covid-19.
Golding called on Jamaicans to listen to the advice of the Prime Minister and exercise individual responsibility and also observe the new protocols.
Jamaica, on the other hand, is currently undergoing a vaccination blitz across the island as the Ministry of Health administers the second dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine for those who have received their first dose so far. More than 55,000 vaccines are to be administered as the country successfully dents the number of at-risk persons in the respective age groups of 50 years and up.
However, Golding warns that more vaccines are needed to make a significant dent in the national numbers.