The Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture yesterday reconfirmed that the Junkanoo parades are canceled for the upcoming holiday season due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and added that while a “viable alternative” to the traditional parades had been considered, that too will not happen.
The ministry said that along with the Office of the Prime Minister it “made substantial efforts” to consider viable alternatives for the hosting of Junkanoo in alternative forms, including a virtual platform that would have required smaller numbers.
“However, due to the recent exponential increase in cases and clusters that sporadically appear throughout our islands and communities, it is evident that the Ministry of Health’s advice (that the parades should be canceled) is based on the empirical data and made in an effort to protect the members of the public,” the ministry said in a statement.
The Ministry of Health’s Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) said in October the Junkanoo preparation and parades are “superspreader events” and the EOC can “neither support nor endorse” the hosting of Junkanoo events.
Junkanoo artists and performers traditionally spend months in Junkanoo shacks preparing for the parades.
The cancellations not only impact the annual Boxing Day and New Year’s Day Junkanoo Parades in New Providence, but all parades normally hosted on the Family Islands “until or unless it is safe for group gatherings”.
The culture ministry noted the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the country has exceeded 7,000 and the death toll is 163 to date.
“The government is working assiduously to reduce the coronavirus cases and eliminate the virus from our tranquil territory,” the ministry said. “However, this is a pandemic, and nearly every nation of the world is taking the necessary measures to implement health protocols and safety standards to keep people safe and save lives. Hence, the decision to postpone this year’s Junkanoo parades, is made out of an abundance of caution.”
The ministry also acknowledged the importance of Junkanoo to Bahamian cultural expression.
“We recognize that the national Junkanoo parade is the premiere cultural program and most supported national event in the Commonwealth of The Bahamas,” it said.
“It provides for the ongoing celebration of the liberties the Bahamian people enjoy, the raw expression of their talents in music, song, the arts and dance; and is the most spirited event that unites Bahamians of all demographics, social class and backgrounds.”
“Additionally, the parades have served as a hallmark of Bahamian culture and Christmas holiday tradition for decades, and represents an indigenous cultural display for Bahamians and tourists year around of who we are, where we came from and where we are going as a people.
“Moreover, the traditional gathering sends a collective message of peace, unity and hope for the upcoming year.”
The ministry said while the decision is difficult, the government has an overriding responsibility to ensure the health and safety of the people of The Bahamas.
It said the resumption of the parades will be subject to the guidance of the Ministry of Health.