Since the start of the new year, Jamaica has reported a steady uptick in COVID-19 cases. The Minister of Local Government and Rural Development, Desmond McKenzie has placed some of the blame for the increase on party promoters and patrons who he says have disobeyed the island’s safety protocols.
McKenzie said that over the holiday period, an alarming number of parties were held on the island. The government had placed a ban on all mass gatherings over the December holidays, but McKenzie said residents insisted on being defiant.
“I can’t deny that there is value in terms of entertainment events. But under the circumstances, I think a lot of what is happening is just mere indiscipline and disregard for law and order. We have a problem and I don’t think it’s a lack of public education,” McKenzie said while on a local radio program.
Many of the island’s well-known party promoters also travelled to Florida to host their annual Christmas parties. Videos on social media showed massive Caribbean parties being held in South Florida at the start of January, many of which were hosted by Jamaican promoters.
With no local parties being granted permits in Jamaica, the Florida events were attended by scores of Jamaican residents who flew to the United States for the holidays.
Minister McKenzie said residents that travel elsewhere to party and come back to the island pose a serious public health threat.
“Quite a number of people travel during that period. But what we are seeing is going to create major problems. I’ve listened to the Chief Medical Officer explain the difficulties that we are going to face. With that amount of persons that I’ve seen on the video and other residents who we aren’t aware of, it means that a significant number of Jamaicans are coming back into the island and we don’t know if they’re COVID-positive,” the Minister said.
Over the last month, the government of Jamaica has shut down Maiden and Lime Cays due to illegal yacht parties. Entertainer Beenie Man was also recently charged for hosting an illegal party.