Westerners flock beaches
It would appear that the Government’s decision to reopen beaches on Sunday could not have come sooner for hundreds of residents across western Jamaica as they turned out in droves for fun and frolic in Trelawny, St James, Hanover, and Westmoreland.
In fact, so great was the turnout that social-distancing protocols aimed at curtailing the spread of COVID-19 were largely ignored as beachgoers arrived from as early as 6 a.m. to soak up the sea and sun at Sunset, Dead End, and One Man beaches in Montego Bay; Orchard and Lucea in Hanover; and the seven-mile stretch of beaches along the Norman Manley Boulevard crossing two parishes.
Everton Samuels, an executive member of tour group JUTA, was elated at the sight of children, adults, and even the elderly swimming at Orchard, the popular community beach. Samuels, who has been swimming and exercising at Orchard for the last 10 years, said he was surprised at the crowd.
“When I heard that the Government had lifted the ban, I expected persons who have been obeying the COVID-19 order to come out, but not in such great numbers ... . I think reopening the beach is long overdue,” he added.
Beachgoer Andre Brown supports the reopening of beaches in western Jamaica – the region had, up to last Friday, 11 active coronavirus cases – but believes that that option should not be available for residents in the east.
There were, up to Friday, 77 active cases in that region. Nearby St Catherine, the epicentre of viral spread here, has more than 100.
“Western Jamaica has little to no cases of the coronavirus, and in addition, there are many free public beaches where people can just walk to a beach, enjoy ourselves, and go home,” said Brown. “On the eastern side of the island, where there is a large amount of COVID-19 cases and not many beaches, I am not sure as to how safe those persons will be.”
On Friday, Local Government Minister Desmond McKenzie announced that all public beaches and rivers would be reopened on Sunday for a 14-day trial run. Water attractions, however, will remain closed.
Vendors whose profits evaporated during the heights of the pandemic were back out in large numbers Sunday seeking to capitalise on the turnout.