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Will Jemmott’s Wake and Funeral Lead to a Spike in Cases?

And while the number of Covid-19 related deaths are not as frequent as other countries in Central America, there is the lingering fear that the relaxation of regulations and the lack of enforcement would lend to a spike in cases and subsequent deaths. One event that garnered attention over the weekend was the wake and funeral service held for Superintendent Henry Jemmott in Dangriga. The wake was held on Friday night in celebratory style, Garifuna drumming and no social distancing. Dozens of persons showed up to pay their last respect to the senior cop but no respect for Covid-19. Both events were streamed lived on social media which evidenced the dancing, the lack of social distancing and many persons not wearing masks; a perfect recipe for a super spreader. Concerns were expressed on social media, and according to Commissioner Police Chester Williams when he was notified of the wake he immediately directed that the wake be shut down.

Chester Williams, Commissioner of Police: “As you have rightly mentioned that on Friday night the family of the late Superintendent of Police Mr.Henry Jemmott had a wake in Dangriga. As you would know I was out of the country and sometime around 9:30/10pm there about on Friday night, someone sent me the link to the wake and I saw where it was being shown live on social media and right away I got to the OC in Dangriga, Superintendent Jones as well as the Southern Regional Commander and informed both of them that they need to ensure that those persons at the wake are in compliance with the COVID19 regulations. I fully understand the family’s plight as well as the police officers who were present that they wanted to enjoy this final moment celebrating the life of Mr.Jemmott but at the same time too while yes we have that urge for celebration we cannot ignore the fact that we do have a pandemic and there are regulations put in place for all to adhere to including the police. And so it was on that backdrop that I directed the OC to ensure compliance with the regulation and that  if that means to close down the wake then so shall it be. About ten minutes later the OC sent me some photographs from the area showing that the wake had come to an end as the persons who were there had disbursed so that is our position in respect to that matter. I saw a link to the funeral and I did not see a large gathering at the funeral. Remember the regulations do provide that churches can accommodate up to 50% capacity and I did not see that there was that large crowd at the funeral and more so it is a funeral for a police officer and we have to do certain things in terms of paying our final respects to him and that was exactly what we did. I do not at any time saw any situation where persons were gathered in large numbers or in clusters at the funeral, I did not see that.”

While it is too early to say if the wake will result in a super spreader, Dangriga’s Area Representative, Dr Louis Zabaneh, has joined the group of concerned residents due to the large gathering.

Dr.Louis Zabaneh, Area Representative, Dangriga: “Any time we have large gatherings it concerns us. For example this week we’ve been doing vaccinations at my office trying to get the population vaccinated. That’s the only way we can really come back to how we used to gather before and there’s been an increase in numbers in nearby villages so yes it concerns us but you know in a setting like this the people want to come and show the family their, love, their appreciation so I am happy to see that most people have on their masks and as much as we can social distance we’re trying to do that.”

Zabaneh says he will continue to urge the residents of his constituency and the broader public to adhere to the COVID-19 protocols and to get vaccinated.