(JAMAICA OBSERVER) – While accepting that bar owners and their employees are hurting from the lock down of places of entertainment, Prime Minister Andrew Holness has argued that the time is not right for lifting the restriction.
Addressing a media briefing yesterday, Holness said the closure of places of entertainment, which was imposed on March18, has been extended while Jamaica tries to prevent the community spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).
“Yes we have discussed it but we are not yet in a position where we can say open the bars. You will see all around the world, almost universally, that they have closed bars and areas of entertainment, and that is because of the nature of how the disease is spread.
“You are in close contact, you are drinking, you are laughing and it is in those actions that droplets are expelled and your inhibitions are lessened. And it is in that condition, that circumstance that it can spread,” said Holness.
“Where we are in the epidemic it is too early to say that we can dispense with any measure. We have to see how it is evolving and when you have an unknown population you could have just out of the blue a super carrier,” added Holness as he noted that Jamaica is learning from what has happened in other jurisdictions.
The prime minister said the Government recognises that there is significant loss of income by the operators of these entertainment places and urged those negatively impacted to apply for assistance through the relief programmes which are being implemented by the Administration through the Ministry of Finance.
The relief schemes include the COVID-19 Allocation of Resources for Employees (CARE) Programme which opens for applications online today.
Under CARE, individuals and businesses will be able to apply for the various grants and relief packages.
“The systems to deliver targeted intervention of this scale do not exist and had to be built from scratch,” said Dr Nigel Clarke, Minister of Finance and the Public Service.
This temporary cash transfer programme is expected to assist with cushioning the economic impact that could be faced by individuals and businesses during the ongoing pandemic.
Seven components of the relief programme that are designed to reach the most affected sectors will be open for application online.
These include the COVID-19 General Grant, which is aimed at supporting persons who operate businesses registered either with a municipal authority, the Transport Authority or the Tourism Product Development Company (TPDCo).
Some components have a specific aim to support the operations of registered businesses in the tourism industry, namely the Business Employee Support and Transfer of Cash (BEST Cash) and the Tourism Grant which can also be applied for on the WECARE website.
Other programmes to be facilitated by online applications include Supporting Employees with Transfer of Cash (SET Cash), which will aid individuals who have been permanently or temporarily laid off on or after March 10; the COVID-19 Small Business Grant, which will support businesses in the MSME sector with sales of $50 million or less, and the COVID-19 Compassionate Grant, which is expected to assist the largest number of Jamaica-based individuals, including the informally employed, unemployed and tertiary students.
Applications open on April 9, 2020 and will close by June 30, 2020.
Beneficiaries are expected to receive their pay-outs within 30 days after application and confirmation that all eligibility requirements are met.