Weekday lockdowns out

PRIME Minister Andrew Holness says the Government is moving towards fewer curfew hours and away from frequent adjustments to the lockdown measures, as these are not a long-term answer to the COVID-19 crisis.

“We are now moving away from more frequent adjustments to measures, and transitioning to an approach that will involve a fixed set of measures that will be responsive to the level of vaccination taken rather than to outbreaks. The Government is now at a stage where it cannot continue to apply these blanket measures, these very crude measures.

We can’t keep doing these lockdowns for much longer. So we are going to set the curfew hours, and those curfew hours will be firm and well-established, and we won’t change them; there would have to be a significant event, in terms of a massive outbreak,” he told the House or Representatives yesterday.Holness was announcing the discontinuation of no-movement weekdays and the implementation of revised curfew hours and no-movement Sundays, which take effect from September 18 to October 28.

However, he made it clear that the current measures will not be changed until the country has high vaccination levels.

“Once we reach a point where we know we are safe and the vaccination levels are high, then we may consider changes to the events protocols. But right now ,with seven per cent [full] vaccination, the national focus must be on increasing vaccination. These measures cannot change until we see a sustained and high threshold of vaccination in the country,” he insisted.

The prime minister, meanwhile, said he has noted arguments about a vaccination mandate, but stressed that the Government would keep its focus elsewhere. “We cannot be compared to other countries in the Eastern Caribbean. We have other considerations and it forces this Government to focus more on education and public engagement,” he remarked.

He noted that, eventually, the situation would evolve into a system of “differential treatment” for those who are vaccinated and those who are not. “We have seen that emerge right across the world for public health reasons,” he said.Holness argued that all Jamaicans must bear their portion of the responsibility to protect themselves, their families, and the population.

“It can’t be that I do my national duty and get vaccinated, and someone who shirks their responsibility and duty, sometimes for no genuine reason other than ignorance and deliberate malicious intent, gets to go by on a free ride. Every citizen has to bear some responsibility and has a duty to get our society out of this crisis. Whilst I respect the views of persons who are genuinely scared or hesitant, at some point in time reason must take over,” he said.

From September 18 to October 28 the nightly curfews will begin at 6:00 pm on Saturdays, continue through Sundays and end on Mondays at 5:00 am. From Mondays to Fridays the curfew will start at 8:00 pm, and end at 5:00 am the following day. National Heroes’ Day, October 18, has been designated a no-movement day.

Holness pointed out that the change in the curfew hour from 7:00 pm to 8:00 pm is not as a loosening- up of measures, but is intended to give people more time to get home.The gathering limit remains at 10 people; 20 for religious gatherings, weddings, and extraordinary general meetings. Burials are allowed, except for holidays and no-movement days, with a maximum of 15 people. As of September 18, funeral services are allowed with a maximum of 20 attendees, and the work-from-home policy for the public sector remains in place.