Thu | May 13, 2021

Graham: Tourism players get away with COVID-19 breaches

Published:Saturday | January 16, 2021 | 7:14 AMAlbert Ferguson/Gleaner Writer


Dr Marcia Graham, the medical officer of health (MOH) at the Westmoreland Health Department, says tourism players in the western parish are breaching the COVID-19 protocols with impunity, while residents enjoy no such latitude as they are being forced to comply.

“It is unfortunate that the scales are appearing to be very unbalanced in terms of what happens in the community versus what is happening in the tourist establishments, but it puts all of us at risk,” said Graham, while addressing Thursday’s monthly meeting of the Westmoreland Municipal Corporation (WMC).

“I am quite aware and I think one of the media groups had done a little exposure on what would have happened on New Year’s Eve in some of our hotel facilities. It is a fact that some things have taken place that were not in compliance with the COVID-19 protocols,” added Graham.

Westmoreland, which is home to the resort town of Negril, has some of the biggest hotels in Latin America and the Caribbean and is a favourite destination to many travellers.

“The Ministry of Health does some monitoring but we can’t have a public health inspector in each tourism facility within the parish or the country in general,” explained Graham. “Therefore, in terms of the COVID-19 monitoring of hotels, the Tourism Product Development Company and the Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association have been given that responsibility. They have hired monitors who were supposed to be in the hotels to ensure that compliance takes place.”

Devon Thomas, the councillor for the Savanna-la-Mar North Division, told the meeting that his visit to a hotel during the holidays revealed a total disregard for the established health protocols.

“I saw things very loose,” said Thomas. “Maybe I was the only one who had on a mask, everybody was just loose.”

Thomas said that he operates a business and by 7 p.m., the police “come to tell you to lock up, but hotels operate until daylight and nobody, no Ministry of Health or the police not going there to tell them to close up. It can’t happen like that,” he lamented.

Continuing, Thomas said, “There must be a balance and that’s why some of us have to break the rule and open our place late, (because) it can’t be, that I must suffer and send my bartender to go suffer … It can’t be that the man who big have all the luxury in this country.”

Concern was also raised about the workers, who return to their communities after their shift and could be infected because of the carefree attitude of hotel operators.