The Gleaner: KINGSTON, JA – All the public wants for Christmas is the revival of the entertainment scene, which has been shuttered to control the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) in Jamaica.

In a press conference on Thursday, Health Minister Christopher Tufton said that if Jamaicans continued to manage the virus by following the protocols, there could be more positive outcomes.
“In a few weeks – two, three weeks – if we see the benefits of that investment in managing the process, I believe that there could be a basis to say to Cabinet that we can relax the levers to allow for a good Christmas,” Minister Tufton said.
But for industry stakeholders, the way forward will be difficult, even if the protocols are to be relaxed.

Garth Walker, prominent businessman and director of the premium event Wealth 500, told The Sunday Gleaner, “It is [a] tough call [for] the Government. Social distancing and entertainment do not necessarily go hand in hand, but I believe if everyone were to play their roles in terms of how we socialise and network, we could be in a good place.”

He said that the entertainment industry would not be the only beneficiaries if the measures change, but “corporate events and business conferences could see a turnaround”.

“We have all lost out on all events of that nature. As an avid socialite, I always like the opportunity to put on a suit, go out and entertain with friends and family, especially during the holiday period,” he said.

Walker further said that following basic protocols will not put Jamaica’s entertainment scheme to its original status but allow it to improve.

“Truth is, all of us need to understand that COVID-19 is something we have to live with. I am not worried that events will not be held but more about what the numbers look like and if there is a decrease over the next [few] weeks, it will give the Government the confidence to relax the restrictions. Until the numbers improve, it will be a quiet calendar, with small gatherings,” he concluded.

As of Thursday, October 29, there have been 9,005 confirmed cases of persons infected by COVID-19 locally. In a press briefing last Wednesday, Prime Minister Andrew Holness announced that a downward trend in COVID numbers could result in a controlled relaxation of some of the measures for Christmas but not all industry stakeholders think they will be able to sing that “it is the most wonderful time of the year” when December arrives.

Co-organiser of the popular Sandz event, Tigana Mitchell, said that there are too many loopholes in the statements made by government officials.


“Relaxed restrictions doesn’t mean they are totally lifted, and there is no reason for anyone to get excited just yet. It could mean the curfew is extended by only one hour to 10 p.m., which is not enough time to facilitate an event unless it is a brunch or kept in the daytime and the permits will not only be more strict, but they will not be issued in short time,” Mitchell explained.

He said that he has experienced the challenges with acquiring a permit earlier in the year when public gatherings were restricted to a maximum of 20 persons.

“As a businessman, I welcome the extension as it would mean more business for even restaurants, but it doesn’t make sense to plan and host an event. It leans towards businesses rather than events, and regardless of the restrictions that will be lifted or modified, not everyone will be allowed a permit as we have seen,” Mitchell said.

Even people who have been in the business for years say it is difficult to envision what Jamaica’s entertainment venues will look like when the government gives the all-clear signal to reopen.

Promoter and broadcaster GT Taylor is confident that his Christmas Extravaganza will not be held for the first time in 20 years.

“At this stage, I don’t think people can look forward to a Christmas event of that magnitude where a large cross-section of people, families from various communities, local and overseas, and of different age groups normally attend,” he said.

The entertainment sector was shut down in March after Jamaica recorded its first few cases of COVID-19. On July 21, when the phased reopening of the entertainment and tourism industry commenced, it was announced that no more than 280 people, inclusive of production personnel, performers and various staff complements, could gather for an event as part of the protocols for outdoor events which Taylor says is not feasible for large-scale events such as concerts and treats.

“I am all for relaxing the restrictions, but it has to be workable because it is not about only following the protocols of wearing masks, sanitisation and social distancing,” he said.

“To produce a successful event, 250 patrons will not even cover the cost of promotion. We would have to put in the work from August; as promoters, we have to do our planning professionally, booking acts and sound systems to secure the dates and preparing the proper infrastructure to make the venues safe. I could not invest in an event at this time, and not know what the protocols are going to be from months ago; it is too risky.”