700 entertainment breaches; minister summons stakeholders

700 entertainment breaches; minister summons stakeholders

Senior staff reporter

Wednesday, August 05, 2020

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LOCAL Government Minister Desmond McKenzie has summoned entertainment industry stakeholders to a meeting at his ministry today to discuss increasing violations of the protocols governing the reopening of the industry.

“This disregard for the rules is happening at and through numerous events being held all over the country. Our surveys show that over 700 events have been staged without any permission being sought,” he said.

McKenzie said in other instances, where approvals for events were given, the agreed conditions were blatantly breached.

“The Jamaica Constabulary Force is being stretched in responding to these breaches, and it is completely unfair to our policemen and women who are simultaneously dealing with everything from traffic violations to violent crime,” the minister added.

He said last night that he will be responding to the breaches at today’s meeting, at which he will discuss “glaring and sustained breaches” of the agreed conditions and protocols governing events and other gatherings.

In addition to the issues surrounding the entertainment events, he was also concerned about the continued misuse of beaches and rivers, which were also reopened to the public on July 21 for a 10-day period, following which he had promised to review the situation to decide whether the events could continue on the basis of permission from local government bodies.

“The surveys have revealed that they are being overcrowded, in clear breach of the social distancing protocols. Little Dunn’s River, Spanish River, and Little Ochi are just a few of the venues at which the overcrowding is occurring. Additionally, parties and other events are being held at various beaches and rivers, in clear violation of the stipulations that govern their reopening. Parties and tournaments are banned at beaches and rivers,” the minister said.

“The Government is very concerned about the public health implications and effects of the unconscionable behaviour being seen islandwide. I wish to make it clear that this Administration will not allow the gains made in the management of COVID-19 to be destroyed by people who have absolutely no regard for anyone’s interest but theirs,” he stated.

“Accordingly, the agenda for [the] meeting will involve a review of this completely unacceptable situation, and a decision about the way forward,” he added.

McKenzie said stakeholders were warned that the Government has been steadily working to restore economic and social life, but it would not be at any price.

“Therefore, there is no guarantee that the relaxations granted to this point will remain. Actions have consequences, and I want to make it clear that we are determined to use the policy and legal tools available to ensure behaviour changes in this time of public health emergency,” he noted.

McKenzie said he had been meeting with the entertainment sector at his ministry since July 2 to see how best to deal with the possible reopening of the sector. Those discussions, which continued through to July 9, were successful. However, the situation has changed since.

“It is clear that the Government will have to reconsider the reopening of the entertainment sector under these present circumstances, because what we are seeing is only courting danger and we cannot afford, as a country, to lose the gains that we have made in controlling the COVID-19 pandemic in Jamaica,” the minister said.

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