By Makeida Antonio
Many residents, returning nationals and visitors have been long anticipating last week’s Cabinet decision that the state of emergency (SOE) will end on December 23.
However, this move may be subject to change as global health officials continue to monitor the emergence of the new Omicron Covid-19 variant which was detected in South Africa last Wednesday.
For almost two years, people have been unable to gather and reunite with family, friends and loved ones in the same way as before. While the lifting of the SOE will put an end to the daily 11pm to 5am curfew, other health measures such as wearing face masks, hand-washing, and six-feet social distancing will remain in place.
Social gatherings will also still be restricted to 25 people.
On Friday, Observer gathered voices of school-aged children, tour operators, vendors and shoppers in St John’s City to ask what their plans are for the festive season and what, if any, concerns they may have.
One teen who attends secondary school has big plans to reunite with friends and family, as is customary on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. He told Observer that, due to the pandemic, he has been unable to meet a few of his family members as a result of travel restrictions.
“I would just love to come to town and have a good time with my friends, crack two jokes for the holiday season, and then when it’s Christmas now talk to my family I have not seen in a year or two and just enjoy myself.
“I really like to spend time with my family and catch up … I have some family I have never met,” he added.
Another secondary school student announced that while he is looking forward to the return of competitive sports, he questions the safety of having large gatherings such as fetes.
“I will be looking forward to the cricket, the Vax 8 tournament that will be played on the 26th. I also heard that there will be more fetes so there is kind of cause for concern because if you are going to have a group of people feting, obviously they are going to come in contact and spread whatever they may have,” he shared.
A crew member from Tropical Adventures believes that existing public health measures should remain in place despite plans to lift the curfew. He is also of the opinion that showing one’s Covid-19 vaccination card to gain entry into restaurants, clubs and bars should be strictly enforced.
“My thoughts are they should still continue with the procedures that were there before. Wearing masks, the whole Covid protocol and still deal with the cards [for] entering bars. For me, lifting it is not a problem,” he said.
However, one business owner located on Redcliffe Street who sells jewellery among other fashion items expressed relief at the news that the entertainment industry will soon be reopened. Out of an abundance of caution, he said that he will continue to enforce sanitisation of his customers to keep everyone safe.
“What I plan to do since the state of emergency soon ends, is what I’ve been continuing to do which is push my business. It is better for business now because people are going to be out partying and my business is for people who are looking to go out to parties.
“It’s going to be good and it’s better for me. I will continue enforcing protocols until things change,” the merchant explained.
Others told Observer that they have already brainstormed changes they would like to make to their lives in the form of new year resolutions in hope of the return of some form of normalcy.