Saturday, June 19

Some entertainment venues to reopen this weekend

OVER 200 temporary workers are to be recruited by the Ministry of Local Government and Community Development to assist with monitoring public beaches and rivers to reduce the widespread breaches of the protocols for use of these facilities that have been detected.

The recruits will join members of the security forces and employees of the Social Development Commission (SDC) in monitoring operations at all beach and river locations used by the public.

Portfolio Minister Desmond McKenzie says that the situation at the water facilities has become untenable, and, accordingly, as of today, will be strictly monitored and those found to be in breach of the protocols immediately shut down.

In addition, both beach and river operators, as well as patrons, will be warned for possible prosecution under the Disaster Risk Management Act, with the onus being on the specific properties.

The announcement was the only negative one made by McKenzie yesterday, as he informed the House of Representatives of the reopening of facilities like cinemas, playhouses, theatres, restaurants, and entertainment venues.

He said that in terms of venues still closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there have been discussions since this week about protocols that can effectively address the unique features of the sector and allow it to return to normal.

The minister said that these talks involved the police, SDC, the Jamaica Fire Brigade, the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management, municipal corporations, the Ministry of Health and Wellness, and the Ministry of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport.

“In my statement to this House last week, I spoke about the alarming rate of non-compliance with COVID-19 protocols at our beaches and rivers. In appealing for improved levels of personal responsibility, I stated that the Social Development Commission would observe and measure whether our beach and river-goers obeyed the reopening rules,” McKenzie said.

He noted that 63 beaches and 74 rivers were visited last weekend by the SDC.

“I regret to advise that the overall level of compliance was 33 per cent. A clear majority, 67 per cent, did not obey these rules. The breaches of the individual protocols are even more serious. Ninety-seven per cent of the people who visited beaches and rivers last weekend wore no masks, and 66 per cent did not practise social distancing,” he stated.

“Many operators of these facilities also failed to obey and enforce the protocols. Only 22 per cent of river operators worked within the designated opening hours. Forty-six per cent of the beach operators were compliant in this respect, 19 per cent of the beaches and rivers had sanitation stations, 42 per cent had clearly marked areas for vending. Only four per cent had signs erected stating the protocols to be followed,” he pointed out.

He said that parties and other events are still being held, and he was even aware of a football tournament, sponsored by a major company, that had a crowd of more than 800 people in Hellshire Beach, Portmore, St Catherine, last weekend.

He said that, as of today, dining will once again be allowed in restaurants. But, the occupancy must not exceed 50 per cent of capacity at any one point. No more than four people can be seated at a table. There must be at least 6 feet of space between tables, and they must not be joined together to facilitate large groups.

On the reopening of the cinemas, playhouses and theatres, which he noted have been closed by order since March, he said that they will be conditionally reopened for 14 days, effective Sunday, July 5. The protocols include the requirement that no more than 60 per cent of seating capacity must be used. There must be one-way foot traffic (one way in and one way out) inside the cinemas, where possible, and at least two rows must be left empty to facilitate movement of individuals across the width of the venue.

A maximum four people from the same family or group will be allowed to sit side by side. There must be a gap of two seat spaces between each group and also between individual patrons.

In addition to the established playhouses, he said that many other locations such as school auditoriums and community centres which are used for entertainment will also be available, and promoters or managers must ensure that all actors are screened and, where required, tested for COVID-19.

For both indoor and outdoor venues, he said at least six feet must be between the stage and the first row occupied by patrons. This area must be marked and physical barriers erected, where possible. All cinemas, playhouses and theatres must be closed no later than one hour before the designated time for the nightly curfew.

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