Govt and Junkanoo groups in talks about possibly canceling parades

Roots Chairman Wendell “Guts” Francis said yesterday that his group would support the cancelation of the upcoming Junkanoo parades if the COVID-19 pandemic drags into the latter part of the year.

The Office of the Prime Minister and the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture continue to hold meetings with various members of the Junkanoo community as the government decides whether to cancel the 2020 Boxing Day Parade and the 2021 New Year’s Day Parade amid a resurgence in COVID cases globally.

Francis said he recognizes the “urgency” of the meetings, noting that it is important that the Junkanoo community be on “one accord in terms of if we want to have these parades in whatever fashion we so desire”.

When asked whether he supported the cancelation of the parades, Francis replied, “I don’t think my group will have an issue with that. As long as we agree, as group leaders and organizations, that that will be in the best interest of the country and the best interests of our families and friends, we’ll have no problem canceling a parade or both parades.

“We will work along and continue our partnership with the government because the government is our number one partner outside our sponsors and the general public.”

Kishlane Smith, public relations director for the Valley Boys, said that emotions need to be removed from the situation and a decision needs to be made “from a holistic point of view”.

She noted that there are many asymptomatic carriers of COVID-19.

Smith suggested that it would be easy for those carriers to come to a Junkanoo parade and spread COVID-19.

“We all know that and we know that when [we] are around people and we get excited, and recent reports have shown that even a droplet can spread,” she said.

“These are the things that we have to monitor and take advice from the health officials. I don’t think anybody in Junkanoo would want to put anybody’s life at risk no matter how much we love the actual sport of it.

“We have to be very cautious and we have to show that we understand the world as it is because the world as we knew it in December and January for the parades is not the world that we’re living in now.”

There are 104 cases of COVID-19 in The Bahamas; four of which are active.

The last case was reported on June 14.

Health officials insist that The Bahamas has flattened its COVID curve and limited community spreading. However, there is still public concern of a more contagious second wave hitting The Bahamas following the reopening of its borders to visitors from the United States, where there are nearly three million COVID-19 cases.

Minister of Youth, Sports and Culture Lanisha Rolle recognized the ongoing global threat of a resurgence of the virus.

“We know at this time, we remain in a COVID environment,” she told The Nassau Guardian when asked about the fate of the upcoming Junkanoo parades.

“Globally, there continue to be resurgences. So, we want to be careful moving forward.”

Rolle added, “There hasn’t been a decision made as yet in reference to whether Junkanoo will be held. However, the Office of the Prime Minister has begun, in conjunction with the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture, conversations and consultation with the Junkanoo community.

“We started off with group B. The others are being organized and as soon as that consultation process is complete, certainly, then we will advise the public where we are with respect to Junkanoo.”

She said consultations will conclude in “at least in the next two weeks”.

The minister said the final decision will ensure that people “are safe all around”.

Junkanoo Corporation New Providence (JCNP) Chairman Dion Miller noted that the decision has been “difficult” for Junkanooers.

“You know, our passion for the expression of Junkanoo, it runs deep in our tradition,” he said.

“But, we’re also trying to be mindful of the health and safety aspect not only of our participants but our fans alike.”

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