COVID blow for big family gatherings

November 25, 2020

Jamaicans who gather in large numbers at the homes of family members to celebrate Christmas could find themselves prosecuted under tightened COVID-19 rules proposed by the Government.

Urging Jamaicans to "celebrate Christmas within your household", Prime Minister Andrew Holness said that a spike in COVID numbers over the Yuletide season would pose a challenge to the reopening of schools and for the economy.

For the holidays, gathering limits, including in private settings, has been restricted to 15 persons, which effectively means a prohibition on big family gatherings like dinners, parties and barbecues.

"Many of the superspreader events are actually private events," Holness said while addressing the House of Representatives. "This could be thorny and problematic in how it is enforced but I think we should still propose to make this amendment, and we will also be clear with the security forces that when it is actually being enforced it is done in a way that is sensitive to people's privacy and their property rights."

Jamaica on Monday recorded four more COVID-19 deaths, pushing the tally to 243. Some 10,422 cases have so far been detected on the island, with 4,465 being active. COVID-19 cases across Europe and North America have been surging recently. In the US, there has been a rapid increase in cases over the past month. More than 12.3 million COVID-19 cases have been recorded there, 256,000 of which have resulted in deaths.

Worrying trends

Holness, pointing to the worrying trends, said that Jamaicans should be responsible in how they celebrate Christmas this year. He also urged Jamaicans in the diaspora to reconsider coming home for Christmas.

"If you are deciding to come, then go to the resilient corridor and help our tourism industry, but don't leave the resilient corridor to go and look for grandma and auntie," he said. "These are not normal times and we will not be able to celebrate Christmas in the normal way this year."

The tightened restrictions for the Christmas holidays will see the nightly curfew on Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year's Day starting at 7 p.m. and ending at 5 a.m. the following day. The curfew hours for December are 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. The ban on parties and events remains.

"If December goes badly in terms of numbers, we cannot reopen schools. Each time we give a little we end up disadvantaging our students by not being able to reopen schools. If we don't maintain the protocols and we see where this becomes a threat, we would have to even put in place tighter curfew measures and tighter infection control measures, which could have negative economic impact," Holness said.

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