It has been a long and hard year on everybody, taking its toll on many.
The decision by Prime Minister Andrew Holness to relax COVID restrictions over the holiday period is a welcomed reprieve, allowing people if only for a while to exhale.
Holness has good political antennae and has employed it well to close out the year. Having gone in and out of lockdown this year, he has eased the valve on the pressure cylinder.
In his calculations, he may well have taken into account the economical and psychological well being of many Jamaicans who have never experienced this level of constraint placed on their movements.
His announcement allows for shopkeepers and other small traders to make some money and for people to enjoy the company of family and friends before taking on the new year.
At a time when the country is roiled in escalating crime, scandals, a contracting economy and a myriad of headaches it is an act of magnanimity.
Some of the prime minister’s detractors may argue that with the onset of Omicron, curfews should be extended and that the fourth wave is inevitable and so the country should once again retreat into confinement.
A good leader should adeptly be able to modulate conditions, knowing when and how to accede to popular sentiment. Holness has got it right here. Both secular and non-secular Jamaica could do with a break.
The Omicron strain announced two weeks ago has now been detected in fifty countries. COVID cases are on the rise again both in the US and the UK, two of Jamaica’s main tourism source markets.
For now, not much is known about this strain. It is hard to determine whether it is more harmful than the Delta variant. It will have to be monitored. Jamaica has put in place measures to keep it at bay.
“At some point, the virus will become the dominant strain and make the ban pointless. So given our open economy, it is inevitable that the Omicron variant will enter Jamaica at some point. The purpose of the ban is to delay its arrival in Jamaica to give us time to get more information and to prepare us,” declared the Prime Minister, speaking in Parliament.
That’s prudent enough.
The onus will be on all Jamaicans to take care, to get vaccinated, wear a mask, clean their hands and sanitise their homes and places of work.