THE GOVERNMENT should reconsider its position with regard to reopening the borders, in light of the Prime Minister’s disclosure that vaccine supplies may soon run out, the high covid19 death rate and the unsettled nature of international practices with regard to admission criteria.
By Dr Rowley’s own admission last Saturday, this country is on course to exhaust its supply of covid19 vaccine doses. As things stand, those who require a second dose are likely to be covered, but no new doses will be administered thereafter for some time.
At the same time, our vaccination programme is still largely focused on the elderly and those with pre-existing vulnerabilities. We are a very long way yet from being able to issue a general invitation to come forward to be vaccinated.
It was only on June 5 that Dr Rowley optimistically announced for the first time that the borders might be reopened and that this country might receive enough vaccines to take us to herd immunity.
Now, given the vagaries of international dynamics – which also include the appearance and rapid spread of more contagious covid19 variants – beyond the Government’s control, the Prime Minister is singing a different tune.
Within the State’s control, however, is its reopening policy. That policy should be shelved until this country achieves herd immunity. About a million citizens should be fully vaccinated before we even consider it.
What little we have heard of the Government’s reopening plans is already confusing. Officials have mentioned one procedure for the vaccinated and another for the unvaccinated. Surely only vaccinated people should be allowed to travel freely for now?
There is also the question of which vaccines should be recognised. This country has consistently aligned itself with World Health Organization (WHO) stipulations and recognises all vaccines approved by that body.
But not all countries recognise all WHO-approved vaccines. Some, for example, impose restrictions on those vaccinated with China’s Sinopharm vaccine. A bewildering asymmetry of travel requirements is opening up.
The most compelling reason why reopening the borders should be reconsidered, however, relates to what is happening at home.
Since Cabinet called a state of emergency in May, covid19 deaths have remained worryingly high. While hospitalisations and infections are down, the daily numbers of new cases have remained troublingly high since the emergency was imposed. Whether this is due to a statistical lag or not, it is a worrying situation on its own, to the extent that there are now specific calls for a commission of inquiry into the circumstances surrounding covid19 deaths in this country.
With Caribbean Airlines (CAL) posting huge losses and retrenching workers, there is eagerness to resume overseas travel. There is also pressure to get Tobago’s tourism sector back on track and to resume business.
But we need to get our own house in order before we open the gate.