MONTEGO BAY, St James — Former president of the Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association (JHTA) Wayne Cummings is calling for the establishment of a date, based on agreed health and operating protocols, for the reopening of the economy, which he said has been brought to its knees by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“…Setting a date for the reopening of the economy, even if the other economies of the world are not yet ready, gives us something to work towards. This is hypothetical — let’s say the opening date for Jamaica was July 15th, it means that we are now all going to say what we are going to do at our airports, at our cruise ports, and our individual businesses to get the country moving again,” Cummings stated.
He said the Ministry of Health and Wellness would then “have to be able to take the statistics, take all that they are doing with regards to not overwhelming the hospitals, to say that [it] is a sensible date because it now overlays very nicely with their ability to manage the health crisis”.
“If for some reason that date is not the ideal date, then we set a new date,” he continued. “And if we don’t do this consistently, we are going to stay closed forever.”
Cummings was yesterday presenting at a virtual public forum hosted on YouTube by the Montego Bay Chamber of Commerce and Industry, in partnership with The University of the West Indies, Mona — Western Jamaica Campus.
“You would have heard it from other people but I have to say it, if we don’t find a way to beat COVID-19 or manage and live with COVID-19 in a sensible fashion, without putting our population at risk, we are going to have a new virus… It is going to be called starvation. People need jobs, people need income, people need work,” the former JHTA president said.
He argued that the Ministry of Health and Wellness is going to be the most critical stakeholder in the process leading up to the reopening of the economy, “because we are in a health crisis more than anything else”.
“That health crisis has now put us into the throes of the worst economic crises that the world has ever seen.
“So, in partnership with the Ministry of Health and Wellness, the Ministry of Finance, Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association, Tourism Product Development Company [and] the Jamaica Tourist Board have been, on a daily basis, knocking heads trying to find agreement on, first of all, what’s really happening. What is the statistics saying; what are the medical practitioners saying; what are the scientists saying? And, most of all, how can we fit into this new world order? The new world order is how do we survive in the time of COVID-19?” Cummings argued.
Noting that a vaccine for COVID-19 could take up to two years to be developed, he questioned whether Jamaica’s economy can remain closed for that time.
“I think the emerging view is that it is not possible, so we are going to have to find a way to reformat our thinking, our businesses, and implement protocols for which we can use globally to survive.
“We are working hard to find a set of protocols, from sanitisation and cleaning to mask wearing; and, more importantly, how do you reopen the international borders where the locals can trust those who are coming in, how those who are coming in can trust the local population and we won’t be reinfecting each other? That, unfortunately, is the real work that is now being done,” he said.
According to Cummings, the team believes it is “very close” to a set of protocols “that seem to be finding favour around the world, but certainly here in Jamaica”.
“As soon as those protocols have been agreed on, we will be advising global travel, trade, airline… cruise, travel agents, tour operators that this is what we believe we have to work with,” he continued. “It is going to be very important for these protocols to be implemented across the length and breadth of the tourism sector [and] beyond the tourism sector into the local population. Whether it is a supermarket or it is a corner shop, we all are going to buy into this new way of surviving by reducing, if not eliminating, the possibilities where we can infect each other.”
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