After being subject to strict lockdowns since the onset of COVID-19 on Jamaica’s shores in March 2020, the entertainment and creative industries have been given breathing space to reopen, but not without a stern warning that adherence to the health protocols would determine the longevity of the new measures. The adjustments take effect on July 1.
In announcing the reopening of the sector on Tuesday, Prime Minister Andrew Holness said that the entertainment, culture and creative industries have been impacted severely by the strictures of the Disaster Risk Management Act.
He noted that the shutdown of the estimated $84-billion sector had dealt severe hardships to players in the industry.
To provide an incentive to the battered sector, the Government will be offering venues to stakeholders rent-free, with the organisers only being required to defray security and utility costs for the events.
Venues that will be made available for use include the National Stadium complex, Ranny Williams Entertainment Centre, Fort Charles, Fort Rocky, Falmouth Pier, Port Royal Pier, among other facilities owned by the Ministry of Culture, Entertainment, Gender and Sport.
The municipal corporations have agreed to reduce by 50 per cent the cost for licences and permits to stage events.
In a statement to the House of Representatives, the prime minister urged stakeholders in the entertainment sector and Jamaicans in general to exercise personal responsibility in observing health protocols.
He warned that a third spike over the summer could have a negative impact on the Government’s plans to have face-to-face reopening of schools in September.
Holness observed that the education sector has suffered even more severely than the entertainment industry.
The prime minister said that the staging of events would fall into two categories – small and large.
With the small outdoor events, no more than 100 people will be allowed to be in attendance, including the organisers.
“We have put a cap on the number of persons who can attend small events – indoors. This is determined as 60 per cent of the usable square footage, not including bathroom and kitchens, divided by 40 square feet, which is the social distancing provision or 100 persons, whichever is lower,” said Holness.
For large events, more than 100 people are allowed to be in attendance, but applications must be made to the entertainment ministry. The Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management will also play a role in the approval process, along with the health ministry, the police and the fire brigade.
St Catherine Eastern Member of Parliament Denise Daley raised concern about some of the measures announced, arguing that small players in the sector might be challenged by mathematical gobbledygook. She urged the Government to go back to the drawing board to simplify the measures.
“We are going to have the security forces, who sometimes do not know what they are enforcing, and people might end up being violated or being arrested for things they are really not guilty of,” Daley said.
Leader of the Opposition Mark Golding, while welcoming the reopening of the entertainment sector and curfew review, has said that Jamaica was still vulnerable to the deleterious effects of COVID-19.
“The reality is that Jamaica is skating on very thin ice,” Golding said.
He said that for normality to be restored in the economy, the country had to build up sufficient levels of immunity in the population so that COVID-19 no longer posed a serious threat to life.
“We are lagging behind the rest of the region in our vaccination efforts,” said Golding, noting that Jamaica had a very low ranking in the Western Hemisphere in per-capita inoculation.
Fewer than 10 per cent of Jamaicans have had at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine and around two per cent have received the second jab.