Tobago Hotel and Tourism Association vice-president Carol-Ann Birchwood-James is calling on the Government to formulate “a clear policy” on vaccinations in Trinidad and Tobago.
She made the call on Tuesday, four days after the Prime Minister announced that bars, casinos, gyms and in-house dining at restaurants will reopen to vaccinated patrons and employees at the end of September, provided there is an aggressive uptake in the rate of vaccinations.
At a news conference in Tobago on Friday, Dr Rowley lamented the relatively low vaccination level in Tobago, saying the island had the potential to be a safe zone. He said Tobago has been unco-operative in its response to the national fight to contain the spread of covid19.
Despite the availability of four brands of vaccine, Tobago still has a high level of vaccine hesitancy, particularly in east Tobago. THA Secretary of Health, Wellness and Family Development Tracy Davidson-Celestine revealed last week that 60 per cent of Tobago’s adult population is unvaccinated.
Giving her personal views on the Government’s plan to reopen bars, gyms, casinos and in-house dining for vaccinated people, Birchwood-James noted this was already happening in several parts of the world.
“So we are just following the science and what is happening all over the world. It is a pleasure for the vaccinated.”
But she believes the Government must establish a firm position on vaccinations.
Rowley has said repeatedly the Government is not considering legislation to make vaccinations mandatory at present. But he also said it may be forced to revisit that position if new and deadlier strains of covid19 emerge.
Birchwood-James believes the Government must lead the way.
“They have not led the way yet. They have to lead the way as to how this country looks at vaccinated and unvaccinated people. They have not made a clear statement besides saying go and vaccinate – 'vaccinate to operate.' What does that mean?”
Birchwood-James added: “It leaves the choice of whether people are vaccinated or not to them, when we should be following the State. The State has to make an official position as to how they see the vaccinated and unvaccinated.”
She referred to Republic Bank Ltd’s decision to impose a policy on its staff, which requires unvaccinated members to produce a negative PCR test on a fortnightly basis. Several trade unions, including the Joint Trade Union Movement, National Trade Union Centre and the Federation of Independent Trade Unions, have condemned the move.
“Republic Bank is telling its workers that they must be vaccinated. They (Republic Bank) are doing it on their own but they need to take guidance.
"The Government needs to formulate a policy," she repeated. "They cannot continue to sit on the fence about vaccinated versus unvaccinated and whether they agree that only vaccinated people should be in the cinemas or even in the workplaces. Other than that, you are leaving it as a situation which can end up in the courts or where someone can be subjected to verbal attacks.”
Meanwhile, bar owner Dexter Woods said he has not taken any consolation from Rowley’s announcement that bars, gyms, casinos and in-house dining are likely to reopen at the end of the month if there is a significant increase in vaccinations.
“If the Prime Minister is saying he 'might,' or 'maybe.' That is not an announcement. That is not an assurance to nobody. Everybody living in guess,” said Woods, owner of the Amsterdam Bar in Patience Hill.
Woods said if bars do open at the end of the month, he would not support a “grab and go” system.
“I not taking any part in that. Grab and go is when yuh going by somebody place to thief. For me, the announcement is no announcement at all.”