Jamaica’s Rick’s Cafe Closed Due To COVID-19 Breaches

Rick’s Cafe, a popular location in the western end of the island, has been ordered closed for seven days for breaching the orders under the Disaster Risk Management Act. 

This follows reports of an event, known as Micah Fest that took place earlier this week despite there being restrictions on public a gatherings and the lockdown of the entertainment sector as part of measures to curb the spread of COVID-19.

The closure order was issued on Friday by Local Government Minister Desmond McKenzie.

According to the Local Government Minister, the police and the monitoring team of the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM) will ensure that the closure is enforced.

Additionally, the management of Rick’s Café has been summoned to a meeting on Monday with the Local Government Ministry and ODPEM.

Meanwhile, the tourism sector has been warned that breaches of protocols related to COVID-19 will not be tolerated.

The warning, from Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett is directly related to the controversial staging of Mocha Fest.

“The Tourism Product Development Company Ltd (TPDCo), which is a public body of the Ministry of Tourism, has acted immediately to ensure that appropriate steps were taken to punish the entity that was in breach of the protocols,” said Bartlett in a statement on Friday.

“I want to make it very clear that the Ministry of Tourism will not tolerate any breaches whatsoever of the protocols that we have established to facilitate the safe operation of the sector. All our partners, local and international, who will engage our tourism product over the next few months – and as long as the Disaster Risk Management Act (DRMA) exists – must be compliant in all regards.”

So far, TPDCo has withdrawn Rick’s Café’s COVID-19 compliance certification with immediate effect.

Based on this, Rick’s Café will be required to undergo a re-certification exercise to ensure strict adherence to the established COVID-19 health and safety protocols before it can be allowed to accept visitors again.

“I am deeply saddened by the fact that such a breach has occurred, however, the various arms of Government have acted immediately and firmly,” said Bartlett.

In a statement, Rick’s Cafe expressed regret at the developments. 

“We acknowledge the Mocha Fest party on Thursday afternoon at Rick’s Cafe became more crowded than expected under current protocols for entertainment venues,” said a statement by Rick’s Cafe issued Friday morning.

“We deeply regret that it occurred, and sincerely apologize for allowing it to happen. Going forward, we will redouble compliance training to ensure this does not happen again.”

Rick’s said that all people were temperature-checked, hand-sanitised, and that face masks were required for entry.

However, viral footage showed widespread disregard for social distancing.

Outrage intensified Thursday evening when it emerged that the seven-day Mocha Fest event, which started on May 24, was being advertised on the website of the Jamaica Tourist Board (JTB), the Government’s tourism promotion agency.

Meanwhile, The Jamaica Tourist Board (JTB) has distanced itself from Mocha Fest.

In a statement late Friday, the JTB said it gave “no undertaking for sponsorship or endorsement of such activities since the start of the pandemic.”

The JTB also said it is “extremely disappointed to learn from videos in circulation on various social media platforms, that proper observance of COVID-19 protocols was not in full compliance during an event held at Rick’s Café.”

In seeking to explain how the agency’s logo was included in promotional materials for the event, the JTB said the visitjamaica.com platform hosts a calendar for all events staged in Jamaica that are endorsed by the JTB.

The dates for the events are typically set years in advance and listed on the site to facilitate pre-planning for visitors and travel agents who sell the destination, according to the agency.

“We regret the oversight that the events section has remained on our website during the pandemic, and we’ve made the decision to disable this section on the site until further notice,” the JTB added.

Source: Loop News Caribbean

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