Be warned! - Complete shutdown of the sector is not off the books – Bankay
Less than three weeks after the entertainment industry was given the green light to commence a phased reopening of the sector, the Government has announced that newer, stricter measures are on the horizon for the industry. In an emergency press conference held on Thursday, Prime Minister Andrew Holness revealed that, despite the best efforts of the majority of Jamaicans, the irresponsible behaviour of a few has caused the Government to review the decisions to relax the rules governing the sector. Although he did not get into any specific details, the prime minister warned that ‘if you can’t hear, you will feel’.
The prime minister’s sentiments are today being shared by members of the Entertainment Advisory Board (EAB). Howard McIntosh, chairman of the EAB, told The Sunday Gleaner that having met with the Minister of Local Government Desmond McKenzie earlier this week to evaluate the July 21 to 31 period that ushered in the first phase of the reopening of the sector, the prime minister’s announcement that tighter measures for the sector are imminent, he is not surprised. “Part of the challenge we have had so far is that people are simply not complying with the guidelines stipulated by the various ministries, and the meeting with the minister of local government revealed that. We found out that people are not applying for the necessary approvals and that’s just wrong. They are also not briefing themselves on the proper protocols and exercising them. And so this re-evaluation of the measures for the sector was coming,” he said. “We wholeheartedly support the Government in its COVID-19 efforts, and now it is a question of the role that the members of the industry can play to help push the Government’s efforts along. If it’s not played and we don’t have compliance, we will definitely, as the prime minister said, face the consequences.”
When The Sunday Gleaner asked if those consequences could result in a total shutdown of the entertainment industry once more, McIntosh said he would rather not speculate, and advised that the measures should be announced by Tuesday. “I don’t want to guess, because all that is going to do is put everything in the realm of speculation. We don’t want to do that and create any panic in the industry. The message we’re preaching is one of compliance ,because this is not just about the industry and the sector, but about the country and about lives. Non-compliance is putting us all at risk, and if they’re not complying ,those persons need to be brought to book.”
Kamal Bankay, who is also a member of the EAB, told The Sunday Gleaner that, as he awaits the prime minister’s decision regarding the entertainment industry, he is aware that a complete shutdown of the sector is not off the books. He expressed that, while the PM will thinks hard about the latter, the Government will do what is in the best interest of the country if its hand is forced. “I think everybody recognises that entertainment is a very real and important part of our earning ecosystem in Jamaica. So just pulling the plug on something that’s really a cornerstone of a lot of communities is not going to be the first thing that he wants to do. But, if we do not follow the rules, restrictions are going to get tighter and tighter until there is no industry to tighten upon,” he said. “Any measures that are going to be taken now to tighten up restrictions on the industry is a direct result of the feedback in relation to how well the promoters and the patrons were following the protocols. There’s a whole level of self responsibility that needs to happen in order for this to work.”
Prime Minister Andrew Holness said as much in Thursday’s press conference. Holness explained that, with COVID-19 possibly being a part of our lives for a long time to come, outbreaks are inevitable. He said that it is the responsibility of the people to ensure the country contains the virus. He then urged the entertainment industry stakeholders to use their voices to strengthen the call for compliance. He said the latter is the only way the sector will truly emerge. “If we allow entertainment to emerge, then we expect that you must be responsible. Entertainers are more influential than politicians, so if you truly want your industry to re-emerge, use your powerful voice to encourage the people who subscribe to your parties and attend, to follow the protocols,” he said. “We have said that we will prosecute, but we are reluctant to do so. But I believe now, I am certainly convinced in my mind, that the only way we’re going to be able to confront this disease and keep our economy going ... is to prosecute those who deliberately go out of their way to ignore the law and place all of us at risk.”