Vaccinated-only sections can work — Event promoters
Large-event organisers are returning to the drawing boards to create plans and proposals for parties and concerts with additional health and safety measures. This includes rapid-testing services, vaccinated-only sections, and controlled exits and entrances for people who are unvaccinated. Several states in the US have put in effect policies that allow for spectator events and even churches to have vaccinated-only sections as part of its road to recovery.
One of the first events in Jamaica to implement a section specifically for persons who are vaccinated, which allows for separate entrance into the venue once they present their Ministry of Health immunisation card and valid identification, was the I Love Soca Cooler Festival.
Andrew Bellamy, chief executive officer for the event, told The Gleaner that the concept will create an environment which is mentally more party-friendly.
“It brings some peace of mind to those individuals who are vaccinated,” he said about the VIP vaccinated-only section at the event, adding that those who choose that option “are in a controlled space shared with fellow persons, highly protected from COVID-19 through being fully vaccinated”.
Since Prime Minister Andrew Holness announced the reopening of the events industry, I Love Soca was the first large event to be held, and the organiser is making an effort to execute the event with the proper measures in place which, he believes, is a way forward for the full reopening of the entertainment sector.
Bellamy said, “Until we have achieved herd immunity as a nation, I would encourage all event organisers to provide ‘vax sections’ at their events.”
Vaccinated-only sections do not have to be mandatory, he explained, “since each event is unique”. Depending on the scale of the event, location and type of event, as an update to the existing guidelines, Bellamy said, “it can be recommended ... indeed”.
Josef Bogdanovich, chief executive officer of Reggae Sumfest and DownSound Entertainment, has also shared that preparations are already being made for the December staging of Reggae Sumfest to include allocated areas as a means to increase awareness on COVID-19 and the various protocols.
“For our show in December, we will have a line and an area for people who are vaccinated and can prove it,” he said, though the tiers have not yet been outlined for the vaccinated, VIP area. “There will also be multiple lines for testing and once the results are presented, [patrons] can gain access to the venue quickly and safely,” he said.
Bogdanovich added, “It is in my best interest for the festival to get everybody to understand that. Hopefully, by the end of the year we will be alright, but my fear is Delta, and other variants, which seem to like places that are not vaccinated.”
He revealed that he had it within his plans to attend the Cooler Festival to observe the operations “because we need solutions. By the fall, in some countries, persons will have to get boosters by October. This says that it doesn’t matter which is the best one, but that the best one is the one you get”.
“Vaccinations have been around for a long time and they worked; there’s no smallpox or yellow fever or things like that. We’re at risk as a nation, so we need to look into these measures,” Bogdanovich concluded.
But not all promoters are convinced vaccinated-only sections will work or fit into Jamaica’s social setting as part of the phased reopening of the entertainment sector.
Promoter of the annual Ghetto Splash concert in Waterhouse, Patrick Roberts, does not agree in the practicality of an area designated for persons who are vaccinated.
“It wouldn’t be needed,” he told The Gleaner. “Not only wouldn’t it be necessary, but I think it breeds negativity and is an extra burden for persons to walk with their vaccination cards to show at an entrance for them to be sent to a separate section. That will cause segregation and potentially cause discrimination. The reality is, there are persons — because of religion or health status — who cannot take the vaccine.”
“There are international organisations like CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) that has said fully vaccinated persons don’t even need to wear masks in most settings, so what is the need for a vaccinated-only area in an event? There wouldn’t be a need for that extra precaution when you are fully vaccinated.”
In contrast, to the CDC’s update, which is on its website, the World Health Organization continues to urge the wearing of mask and social distancing, whether vaccinated or not, amid the spread of a concerning new variant. While some protocols will be difficult in a concert setting, Roberts said they could be enforced easier.
He said, “I’m praying we are not heading for the worse with the new variant, but I believe the most we need to do at this time as event organisers is to promote and enforce the wearing of masks for every patron inside a venue.”
Roberts shared that he intends to write to the Ministry of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport in short time for a permit to host Ghetto Splash.
“We would definitely comply with the measures, but I also anticipate that by the time of the event, most people would have seen the need to get vaccinated and go for it; but I would have to do more thinking on the concept of a vaccinated-only section for my event. I want to send in a proposal early that looks into workable safety measures,” he said.