Prime Minister, the Most Hon. Andrew Holness, says over the coming months the Government will be looking to remove more of the measures that have been instituted to contain the coronavirus (COVID-19) transmission.
“Barring any extreme change in circumstances, our approach will be to gradually scale back restrictive measures once we get out of the fourth wave that we are now experiencing. We will not keep the measures longer than is necessary,” Mr. Holness said.
He was delivering the keynote address during the opening ceremony for the Jamaica Stock Exchange (JSE), 17th semi-virtual Regional Investments and Capital Markets Conference, at The Jamaica Pegasus hotel in New Kingston, on Tuesday (January 25).
Mr. Holness said the national approach adopted to counter the COVID-19 pandemic of saving lives and livelihoods “has served us well”.
He noted that almost two years into the pandemic, “we have both the knowledge and means to protect ourselves”.
The Prime Minister maintained that citizens have access to adequate reliable information and resources “to assess [their] own health and risks as well as their own economic and social circumstances to make their own personal decisions”.
Among these, he pointed out, are infection prevention and control protocols that have been proven effective, such as mask wearing, handwashing and sanitising, and physical distancing.
Additionally, Mr. Holness said with multiple doses of vaccines now widely available, “the balance of responsibility now shifts from the government to the individuals and families”.
“It is, therefore, no longer appropriate or necessary for the Government to use… measures, such as lockdowns, to shield the population from the virus,” he stated.
Mr. Holness said, however, that while these interventions are designed to restrict movement which spreads the virus, these “ultimately and inevitably” put a “stranglehold on economic and social activities”.
These, he added, also “keep our children out of school, have a devastating impact on livelihoods, particularly the poor and vulnerable [and] have severe psychosocial impacts”.
Mr. Holness said against the background of the outlook for the recovery from the pandemic, particularly for the United States and the potential impact on emerging markets, Jamaica must ensure that “our economy gets back on track very quickly”.
“So we cannot afford to have the measures impede our economic recovery. And if it is that our vaccination rates don’t rise to the level where we can be guaranteed herd immunity, then the Government can only help our citizens by providing them with information and encouraging them to get vaccinated. But we cannot keep our economy under restrictions,” he added.
Consequently, the Prime Minister said, the public should now start to visualise an ending of restrictive measures under the Disaster Risk Management Act (DRMA) and the country “returning to our full economic capabilities”.
The three-day JSE Conference is being held at The Jamaica Pegasus hotel from January 25 to 27 under the theme ‘Positioning Capital for Growth: Facilitating, Mobilising and Expanding’.