After almost two years of restrictive measures to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus in Jamaica, Prime Minister Andrew Holness says it is now time for Jamaicans to emerge from the pandemic and adjust to life with COVID-19.
Speaking at the 2022 Jamaica Stock Exchange Regional Conference last evening (January 26), Holness stated: “We have to adjust. Indeed this is the message of the Government. Our society must adapt to living with COVID-19.”
The prime minister stressed that, after almost two years of the pandemic, “we have both the knowledge and the means to protect ourselves. Citizens have access to enough reliable information and resources to assess their own health and risks as well as their own economic and social circumstances and make their own personal decisions”.
Given this, the prime minister said the balance of responsibility for protection has now shifted from the Government to individuals and families.
“It is therefore no longer appropriate or necessary for the Government to use crude blanket measures such as lockdowns to shield the population from the virus…,” said Holness.
He noted that these measures have in the past put “a stranglehold on economic and social activities”.
Said Holness: “They keep our children out of school. They have a devastating impact on livelihoods particularly for the poor and vulnerable… . Therefore, barring any extreme change in circumstances our approach will be to gradually scale back the restrictive measures once we get out of the fourth wave that we are now experiencing.”
He added: “We will not keep the measures longer than is necessary.”
While highlighting that the strategy of balancing lives and livelihoods has served the country well in the past, Holness argued: “We have to ensure that our economy gets back on track very quickly, so we cannot afford to have the measures impede our economic recovery.”
That said, the prime minister indicated that within the coming months the Government of Jamaica would be moving to further relax the restrictions currently in place.
“The public should now start to visualise the ending of the DRMA (Disaster Risk Management Act) and the various protocols and restrictions that it underpins,” said Holness.
“The public should now start to visualise coming out of the pandemic measures and returning to our full economic capabilities and output.”