“There is good news on the horizon. We just have to hold the fort.”
This was Tobago Hotel and Tourism Association vice-president Carol-Ann Birchwood-James’ response to the news that the country’s borders may be reopened within the next four to six weeks.
If it comes to pass, the move would begin the process of reviving the island’s tourism sector, which has buckled under the weight of the covid19 pandemic for the past 15 months.
During a news conference on Saturday at the Diplomatic Centre, St Ann’s, the Prime Minister said the reopening of the borders will be closely linked to the national vaccination rollout and rate of infections.
Dr Rowley said a ministerial team is expected to meet with Caribbean Airlines on Tuesday to work out the details of the arrangement.
Rowley said: “It is the Government’s position that within the next four to six weeks we would do away with the border closure arrangement and the exemption system because as we vaccinate and as it has accelerated in North America, in particular, the situation is different now.”
He added this development will allow for the populations of North America and the Caribbean to mix more easily “and we will be better able to manage people coming into the country.”
Birchwood-James welcomed the news that the borders could soon be reopened.
“People want to come home. People want to visit their families. They have already been vaccinated abroad,” she told Sunday Newsday.
Birchwood-James urged tourism stakeholders, including workers and managers, to prepare for the reopening of the borders by taking the vaccine.
“I want to send a special message to our tourism workers and tourism owners that we have to vaccinate. We are in the red zone now and we have to vaccinate to get to the green zone so that we can get cruise ships as well as foreign visitors, once again.”
Birchwood-James said Tobago needs the foreign exchange.
“So, I think we are getting some good news even though we are not out of the woods yet.”
She also welcomed the Government’s plan to vaccinate 500,000 citizens within the next 12 weeks through its accelerated vaccination programme.
Birchwood-James was specifically pleased with Rowley’s announcement that a batch of 800,000 doses of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine is expected to arrive in August.
People will only be required to take one dose of this vaccine.
“I think we are having a bit of good news there. The 800,000 vaccines coming in August – the Johnson and Johnson will sort out our situation in Trinidad and Tobago.”
Birchwood-James believes the Government must now focus its energies on a “massive campaign” to get people to take the vaccines.