Workers in Tobago’s construction and tourism sectors are expected to begin receiving their covid19 vaccinations on Saturday “at designated times and locations.”
In a statement on Tuesday, the THA Division of Health, Wellness and Family Development said the workers will be informed directly when and where they can take their vaccines.
The move came three days after the Prime Minister announced that the country’s borders could be opened in four to six weeks, depending on the extent to which citizens access vaccines to reduce the likelihood of contracting covid19.
At a news conference on Saturday, Dr Rowley gave a further update on the Government’s plan to accelerate the national vaccination programme.
He said they are hoping to vaccinate 500,000 citizens within the next 12 weeks.
On Monday, Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh said the ministry is hoping to fully vaccinate at least 62,000 people by mid-July.
Tobago’s tourism-based economy remains crippled by the pandemic, which has shut down international tourism for the past 15 months.
As a result, the health division’s decision to vaccinate workers in the tourism and construction sectors could very well be seen as an attempt to position Tobago to receive tourists and start the process of rebuilding its economy.
At Saturday’s news conference, Rowley said the reopening of the borders would 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.”
The division, in its statement, said industry co-ordinators in both sectors have been asked to collate the information in relation to the number of people who are willing to take the vaccine.
In the meantime, the division said workers in those sectors should not randomly show up at health centres for the covid19 vaccine.
The division said health centres are currently administering vaccines by appointment only and have started administering the second dose of the Oxford-AstraZeneca and first dose of Sinopharm to the priority groups.
These include people over 60, people with non-communicable diseases, health-care workers, protective service officers, caregivers, teachers and other essential workers.
Tobago Hotel and Tourism Association vice-president Carol-Ann Birchwood-James described the move to vaccinate tourism and construction workers as “excellent.”
She said workers have already been asked to indicate when they would like to take the vaccine.
“We have already spoken with the health secretary and they are setting up a facility for our tourism workers,” she told Newsday.
“Our association is doing the list. So, everybody who wants to vaccinate and they are in the tourism industry, they will send it to our e-mail address.”
Birchwood-James said in order for construction and tourism activity to resume in Tobago, workers must be vaccinated.
“You have to have some kind of armour against that thing they call the covid. And when you are on a construction site, you have ten, 12 men, women included, working in close proximity, who carrying bricks, who tying up steel and who doing roof, giving instructions.”
With respect to tourism, she said, “We are taking people from Trinidad and we are preparing for foreigners as well. So, you need to be vaccinated because we want the industry to open back.”
Birchwood-James added: “When we open the borders, we want foreigners to come in. So, it is a good move to have those important sectors open.”
She said she learnt that in several Caribbean islands, people in those sectors cannot work unless they are vaccinated.
THA Secretary of Health, Wellness and Family Development Tracy Davidson-Celestine told Newsday the Government’s accelerated vaccination drive coincides with Tobago’s increasing demand for vaccines.
She said plans are already on stream to increase the number of locations administering vaccines.
Currently, people are being vaccinated at the Canaan, Scarborough and Roxborough health centres.
Davidson-Celestine urged people to continue registering.
“We have started the second dose of the AstraZeneca.”
She said the additional curfew hours – 7pm to 5am on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays – “will bring some ease to the few among us who are playing Russian roulette with the population’s safety.”
Davidson-Celestine stressed people need to “isolate and vaccinate.”
She added: “The measures announced enhance our moves for home self-isolation in Tobago as the numbers continue to rise in Tobago.”
Davidson-Celestine said the border reopening, albeit controlled, is also a sign that the country is moving in the right direction.
“But key to our recovery is isolation and vaccination.”
Davidson-Celestine said the division is anticipating positive results from the additional measures implemented by the Government the reduce the spread of covid19.