With two churches featuring prominently in the recent outbreak of the coronavirus (COVID-19) in Church Corner, St. Thomas and Sandy Bay in Clarendon, the Government has decided to ban church conferences and conventions.
Prime Minister, the Most Hon. Andrew Holiness, in making the announcement at a virtual press conference on Thursday (August 6), said that the order banning church conferences and conventions will be placed under the Disaster Risk Management Act, and breaches of the order will attract a penalty.
The Prime Minister noted that while the majority of churches in the island have been conforming to the protocols, with some instituting measures “over and above what is in the Disaster Risk Management Act”, some have continued to totally disregard the rules.
“We have a case of a Jamaican pastor who returned to the country and held services… and when we visited the church, from the reports we had, none of the protocols was being followed,” he noted.
“People were there without masks, they were all gathered in a very close way. There were no temperature checks being done at the door as we require, there were no hand sanitisation stations. It was a total disregard for the rules and I interpret that as a total disregard for our fellow Jamaicans,” Mr. Holness added.
He noted that many of the 30 new cases of the coronavirus that were confirmed on August 6 are related to that incident.
“My own view is that the authorities, who are empowered by law, should act, should send a strong signal to those who flout the law in this way.
“Now the irresponsible behaviour of a few has created a significant dilemma for the Government. Our global economy has taken a massive hit,” he said, noting that he has been receiving first-hand reports of the economic impact of the virus during his travels across the island.
“One weak fence could undermine the entire progress, which the economy has been making,” he stressed.
In the wake of the increase in cases, the Prime Minister said that Cabinet has contemplated stricter measures, but noted that consultations will be held with the relevant stakeholders before an announcement is made.