St James vendors get reprieve, but no Grand Market
In response to cries from vendors, the St James Municipal Corporation has decided to facilitate earlier vending hours on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve as a result of the nightly curfew for those days beginning three hours sooner.
“I have decided to allow vendors to peddle their wares on the selected street and in selected locations only on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and on New Year’s Eve,” said Montego Bay Mayor Leeroy Williams in announcing the decision on Tuesday. “Vending will be allowed in the designated areas only, and this will take place at an earlier time of 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and it will be done in keeping with the new curfew times of 7 p.m. to 5 a.m., which will be in effect for those days.”
Outside of the designated days, the regular vending hours will be from 1 p.m. to 9 p.m., ahead of the 10 p.m. start of the curfew on those days.
Williams, however, stood firm on his decision to cancel Grand Market activities this year despite the vendors’ pleas.
“The COVID-19 cases have been increasing in St James, and the St James Municipal Corporation has taken a decision to be firm in its fight to contain the spread of the disease,” said Williams. ”As of December 14, 2020, there were 1,253 positive reported COVID-19 cases in St James, with 122 still being active, and unfortunately, there have been 46 deaths. Events such as a Grand Market is a recipe to encourage the spread of the virus and we will not allow that.”
He continued: “As mayor of Montego Bay, I will not be encouraging any event, including the Grand Market, that will attract large gatherings. Such events have the potential to cause a spike [in COVID-19 cases] ... .”
While noting that in former years, vendors were given a concession to take over Sam Sharpe Square on Christmas Eve night, Williams said that is out of the question this year.
“We have to be responsible in this COVID-19 era ... . I understand that vending has been the livelihood for many, but we all need to play a part in protecting each other,” he said.