Jamaica’s Prime Minister Andrew Holness has defended the government’s decision to keep the “strict” COVID-19 protocols in place and said if the diaspora wants to see the measures relaxed, they should encourage Jamaicans at home to get vaccinated.
Holness was addressing members of the diaspora during the Virtual Jamaica Diaspora Sustainability Symposium on June 16.
He said that many Jamaicans at home often compare the government’s COVID-19 response to that of other countries, especially the United States. But the Prime Minister noted that there are several differences between Jamaica and the US, the most important being the rate of vaccination.
“People in Jamaica looking on at their family in the diaspora being able to go to restaurants and to go parties are looking at our government and saying “why are we being so strict? why are we targeting dancehall?” But they forget one critical distraction, which is our vaccination rate is just under eight percent of persons who have had the first dose of the vaccine. In the United States and other countries, their vaccination rate is approaching 50 percent, and therefore, the risk to their population is far less than our population,” Holness said.
Prime Minister Holness said that the only way that the government will completely relax its measures is if more Jamaicans take the COVID-19 vaccine. He said the diaspora can help with the vaccination program by encouraging Jamaicans at home to take the shot.
“The diaspora can be very helpful to us in their direct communication with their family members to encourage Jamaicans who are hesitant to take the vaccine. The only way we will have any confidence of a full reopening without a reoccurrence of a spike is if that reopening is coupled with vaccination,” Holness said.
Prime Minister Holness, however, admitted that being under an islandwide curfew and other restrictions for over a year has taken a toll on Jamaicans, mentally, physically and financially.
He said that he will soon announce an adjustment to the island’s protocols to give Jamaicans a bit more freedom.