THE Tobago Business Chamber has called on the Government to enact mandatory covid19 vaccine laws to allow certain sectors to reopen.
Chamber president Martin George, in a video on Friday, backed the Prime Minister's cautious approach to reopening and prioritising lives over livelihoods, but urged the government "to be more proactive, creative and innovative in finding ways to get us quickly out of this economic crisis."
George said the country is paying a heavy price for the lockdown measures to curb the spread of the virus.
He noted recent statements from the Supermarket Association of TT president Rajiv Diptee about rising food prices and observed a number of businesses have begun shutting doors permanently.
George said TT should replicate the mandate set by New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio who announced that people will be required to show vaccination proof to enter indoor restaurants, gyms and performance venues from August 16.
George said, "The Tobago Business Chamber is recommending to the government that they immediately consider implementing measures such as being put in place in France and New York, where you are able to reopen your business, entertainment sector, restaurants, bars immediately by simply having legislation that mandates that all staff workers and persons interacting must be fully vaccinated."
Some businesses, including Mario's Pizzeria, have taken the initiative, requiring its employees to be vaccinated or produce a negative PCR test –paid for out of their own pockets – every two weeks.
George said, "We have to be brave, we have to be bold, we have to be innovating.
"The government must not be afraid to step up to the plate and bring that legislation to the table."
Noting Thursday's anti-vaccine protest in St Vincent and the Grenadines which descended into violence, George said TT must be firm for the good of the nation. St Vincent Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves had to be taken to the hospital after his head was burst by a protester while on his way to Parliament. Gonsalves has taken a pro-vaccine stance for months and advocated a policy requiring most frontline state workers to be jabbed.
"We extend our sympathies to PM Ralph Gonsalves of St Vincent. He tried, in his way, to bring his legislation, with unfortunate consequences, and our thoughts and prayers are with him.
"Notwithstanding that, we urge out government not to be cowed or intimidated. We urge them to stand strong, bring legislation to the Parliament.
"This will be fastest way to have your businesses up and running."
George claimed that this policy in France has been a success. In France a "health pass" – vaccination proof, a negative coronavirus test or proof of having recently recovered from covid19 – is required to enter restaurants and other public spaces. The policy goes into effect on Monday.
"French people went out in their droves because they want to go out and live life again," George said,
Although some polls say the majority of France support the health pass, thousands took to the streets in Paris to advocate against it.
Asked about the protests, George said, "There will always be resistance to this, but we must remember in England when they introduced small pox legislation, there was mass demonstration.
"People always fear what they don't know, and that is understandable. But once you follow science, that will trump all."
He said mandatory vaccines for certain privileges is nothing new.
"We have had legislation – look at what happens in primary schools. You have to be vaccinated before you attend school."
Asked whether he expects a forceful, violent rejection if a policy is adopted in TT, George said, "I don't think so, we are not known to be a violent people. We are usually a people of humour, rumour and mauvais langue."
He added, "We are saying: government must bring legislation, and the time is now. We can't wait any longer."
He urged the government to ramp up its vaccine campaign.
"Show the nation all government ministers are fully vaccinated. They need to lead by example. Enlist our soca stars, sports stars. Have a massive campaign to encourage mass vaccinations.
"We have to find creative ways of living with this virus, living in this pandemic."
George said being in a perpetual state of lockdown could never be the solution.