Jamaica currently has over 48,000 COVID-19 cases and not enough vaccines and is therefore not able to fully reopen businesses. Though the cases are dwindling, the health ministry is preparing for a possible third wave of COVID-19.
The country is still in a state of partial lockdown with COVID restrictions imposing a nightly 9 pm curfew and ban on all mass gatherings.
While food-service, tourism, schools, churches, beaches, and the likes have been allowed to reopen, albeit some partially, entertainment by its very nature has struggled.
Apart from a one-month reopening in the summer of 2020, Jamaica’s entertainment industry has been completely closed since the COVID-19 pandemic began on the island in March that same year.
According to Prime Minister Andrew Holness, his attempt to allow entertainment to open up was one of the factors that resulted in the first COVID-19 spike in 2020.
However, a wide cross-section especially the poorer class that relies on these social events to make a living; and is currently suffering because of the ban on events is at odds with the current situation.
Since last year, scores of Jamaican musicians, promoters and other stakeholders in the industry have called on the government to either reopen the industry or provide financial support for the hundreds of thousands of entertainment workers who have been affected by the closure.
Earlier this month, as he announced new measures aimed at curbing the spread of the pandemic, Holness said that his government is cognizant of the devastating impact that the pandemic has had on the entertainment industry and the large number of persons who depend on the staging of events for their livelihood.
Frustrated with the closure and lack of support for the local industry, many Jamaican creatives have sought livelihood elsewhere and already found success in other countries. Dancehall artistes and many others have relocated to the United States to continue doing shows.
In May, popular beach party series ‘Chug It’ announced that it signed a contract with an international entertainment company, which will see the event hosted in Florida. DreamWeekend and Sandz, two other popular Jamaican events, have also moved their parties to the United States.
In a bid to appease the disenchantment the Jamaica government is proposing a list of approved venues that will be made available at subsidized rates as a stimulus for the sector that has been greatly impacted.
Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport Minister, Olivia Grange told the Senate on Tuesday that in anticipation of the full reopening of the entertainment sector, those venues will be retrofitted to comply with COVID-19 safety protocols. She said the government is still finalizing the arrangements while continuing consultations with stakeholders for the reopening of the wider entertainment sector and will make the appropriate announcements soon.
The government says that it is their intention to balance lives with livelihood and are currently examining when the industry can reopen; but for many in the industry, a full reopening cannot come soon enough.