Motorcade prohibition, physical distancing non-existent

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MANDEVILLE, Manchester — Prime Minister Andrew Holness and his Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) appeared to breach new COVID-19 protocols, which he announced on Friday, during a ‘drive-through’ here late Saturday as part of the campaign leading up to the September 3 parliamentary election.

Holness, standing in the sun roof of a car which was located midway a long line of vehicles, arrived in the Mandeville town centre at close to 7:00 pm, to be greeted by hundreds of joyous supporters, some without masks, and showing little or no adherence to social/physical distancing.

Some supporters had been waiting for hours to greet the prime minister who is also leader of the ruling JLP.

Holness rang a large bell — symbol of the JLP — and saluted supporters with the familiar JLP two-fingered victory sign as the vehicles drove through the crowded town without stopping. The visit to Mandeville was part of a wider tour of the Manchester Central constituency ahead of the general election.

Three-term incumbent Peter Bunting of the Opposition People’s National Party (PNP) is being challenged by the JLP’s Rhoda Crawford in Manchester Central.

Last Friday, the prime minister announced restrictions including prohibition of motorcades and gatherings in the build up to the election as part of the effort to contain spread of COVID-19, which has been rising alarmingly in Jamaica over recent days.

Announcing the new measures in relation to motorcades, the prime minister said on Friday: “This is to say, motorcades with more than two buses, which we call Coaster buses; motorcades that are stopping and greeting; motorcades that are carrying persons by bus, that will be prohibited.”

He said further: “We will allow drive-throughs, meaning that the political party should present a route to the police commander in charge of the respective areas they intend to tour and they can drive through but not stop and greet. It would be merely driving through displaying their signs, banners, paraphernalia, but there will be no stopping and greeting, so there should be no gathering at any point.”

However, on Saturday, the streets of Mandeville were transformed into a mass gathering of people, including JLP supporters awaiting the arrival of Holness and Crawford.

From as early as 1:00 pm people began converging on the town centre with the crowd growing larger by the hour.

“How Andrew a take so long fi forward?” a JLP supporter asked.

Shortly before 7:00 pm scores of vehicles transporting JLP supporters drove through the town in a motorcade with some supporters not wearing masks and others with their bodies protruding from vehicles.

Midway the motorcade was Holness’s security detail, a vehicle transporting Crawford and another transporting Holness with him standing through the sunroof.

Immediately behind were more security personnel and scores of vehicles including a JLP-branded sound truck, a Toyota Coaster bus and others transporting supporters.

There appeared to be little or no attempt at practising physical distancing as people shouted “Showa” and “Brogad” in response to Holness’s bell-ringing.

“Right now, nuh social distancing and a that we want. We want the social distancing right now [because] none nuh deh yah so,” said a man who identified himself as Lenky.

A woman, who spoke to the Jamaica Observer on condition of anonymity, blasted the JLP-led Government for what she viewed as poor decision-making.

“Dem postpone school till October yet still dem a have campaign wid people a gather in large numbers, that nuh mek nuh sense. It better dem did just let the pickney dem go ah school September morning,” she said.

Several people took to social media responding to an Observer Online story.

“Given the history of our campaigning activities its like rubbing butter in puss mouth to tell people to campaign but obey social distancing rules. It does not make sense. What’s the point of keeping children home from school yet calling out their parents to infect them to return home?,” wrote one person using the name Dr Ann-Marie Wilmot.

Another, who used the handle LChuckumeka, said: “So now we are blaming the prime minister instead of taking personal responsibility. I’m a strong supporter of the JLP and when they called me the other day to go on a campaign bus, I told them that it’s too risky and I’m not going anywhere.”

The person who posts under the handle Jamdown876 said: “He’s endorsing their unruly behaviour though. He is to be blamed, ringing bell like a lunch time a high school.”

Yet another, who uses the handle 86fuse, posted: “So wah uno think ago happen lol. It’s the prime minister, most a dem probably a fuss dem a see him ina di flesh.”

Laydee_sharmz wrote: “To be honest,I don’t blame the prime minister for this, we’re all adults who should take responsibility for our actions. From mi hear bout motorcade inna dis time, mi tek weh myself, if anybody did think like me dem wouldn’t have an audience.

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