Usually organized from Easter Sunday until the following weekend (12-19 April 2020), the Jamaican carnival – Bacchanal Jamaica – did not take place due to the global Covid-19 epidemic. The organizers thought that it would be off in six months time so they programmed this festive event which brings together thousands of carnival-goers and spectators from 22 to 26 October 2020.
But with the increase in Covid-19 cases in many countries that had ended lockdown – a radical mean to curb the spread of the coronavirus – some wondered if Bacchanal Jamaica was really going to take place this year. Last August, the number of cases did increased on the island. As of Tuesday, September 22, 2020 the total number of cases registered in Jamaica was 5,143, the number of recoveries is 1,407, the number of deaths is 70; 71.28% of people are still sick from the virus. (CSSE, John Hopkins University). The government was not going to take the risk of authorizing this popular meeting, even though it represents a flagship event for tourism. Charmaine Franklyn, the director of Bacchanal Jamaica, and her whole team had to cancel this carnival, which was scheduled to take place in a month’s time.
Ban on large gatherings
Last week, the cancellation was announced like this to the “revellers”: “As many of you would have seen or heard by now, the Jamaican Government (GOJ), through the Ministry of Tourism has announced that Carnival in Jamaica is postponed until April 2021. This is as a direct result of the Covid-19 Pandemic and it’s effects.While we know a few of you may be disappointed by the postponement, our communication with you indicates that the overwhelming majority of revellers believe, that due to the recent surge in Covid-19 cases in Jamaica, an October 2020 Carnival would be unsafe and many of you communicated a wish to postpone until April 2021. A 2021 rescheduled Carnival is in line with what most, if not all, Carnivals have done since March of this year. For those that believe that October 2020 would have been ideal, please note that the maximum number of people allowed to gather by law in Jamaica is now only 15 and no event permits are currently being granted, rendering a Carnival Road March impossible by law”.
Carnival, an industry
The question that some people are asking is: why not cancel the 2020 edition of this carnival outright instead of postponing it again to 2021? The organizers explained: “Why have we postponed again, rather than cancelled? Please remember that carnival isn’t just fun and revelry. There is a whole ecosystem of people that make a living from the Carnival industry here in Jamaica.
A decision to cancel Carnival would see us forego all the potential economic injections across all sectors that our Carnival brings to our country annually, especially in a time when we will need it most, i.e. with the economic fallout as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.
By postponing the season and not cancelling, we can stil) fulfill our commitment to our revellers to provide the best Carnival experience in the Caribbean and keep our industry from crumbling under the weight of the significant economic pressures we face as a nation”.
Saving the Jamaican carnival
With all these explanations, some participants who had ordered their costumes would like to be refunded. And on this point, the organization replied: “The no refund policy that forms part of all the bands terms and conditions, is there for 1 primary reason: the number 1 cost to a carnival band is costume production, this is indisputable. The revenue to cover production comes from costume sales. When the GOJ announced our first postponement in March, costume production was far advanced already, despite many revellers stil) owing on costumes.(…)
For those of you who have paid in full or made significant payments thus far, we thank you – you are the ones that have kept Carnival in Jamaica alive. For those that haven’t continued to make payments and have requested refunds, we understand and we are empathetic to your varying situations, but no refunds will be granted, because we have already spent these deposits/payments on the production of your costumes“.
An uncertain carnival in the Caribbean and the world
Revellers are invited on Sunday, April 11, 2021 to the “Road March”, the big carnival parade in Kingston. The “Road March” in the town of Ocho Rios will take place on Sunday, April 4, 2021. Other events are also planned.
Bacchanal Jamaica is asking carnival lovers to wait another six months, however, in 2021, will this coronavirus still be with us and cause Covid-19? Will we have found a treatment or a vaccine by then? Russia claimed to have developed a vaccine, and many laboratories around the world are working hard to produce this vaccine. In the Caribbean, Cuba said it started human clinical trials last August, and the results of its vaccine, called its Soberana 01, will be known in February 2021. Next year, perhaps we will look at the archive images of carnival with a lot of nostalgia. The masked “Carnival Planet” is holding its breath.