Allowing only vaccinated people to partake of certain activities in specific, controlled public or quasi-public settings is a viable option now in the context of the competing needs to reopen the economy and to get the population sufficiently vaccinated against covid19.
Though the Prime Minister on Saturday stated the litmus test for whether this option will be pursued will be whether the take-up rate remains steady and whether projections of overall cases remain low, the Government would do well to not rule out the possibility entirely even if progress on those fronts fall short.
However, what needs to be addressed urgently are all the logistical issues that arise both in terms of the legal form this matter might take and in terms of the way in which individuals can be safely and securely identified as vaccinated.
Business stakeholders, such as the TT Chamber of Industry and Commerce, MovieTowne CEO Derek Chin and CinemaOne Ltd CEO Ingrid Jahra have expressed agreement with the possibility in principle.
Ms Jahra has even suggested digital proof of vaccination, stored on a hand-held device such as a mobile phone, could be used. Indeed, this week, reports of plans to issue all vaccinated citizens with electronic scannable codes circulated in the public domain.
Such a move would be convenient though, of course, provision would have to be made for anyone without a mobile device.
Whatever form is adopted, the Government would do well to consult with all stakeholders to ensure the measures to be adopted are implemented as smoothly as possible and to avoid any misunderstandings about the interpretation of legal regulations.
Time and time again we have seen confusion arise over how the same fine print is to be implemented in the real world by the business community as well as enforced by the police.
Political figures such as Movement for Social Justice leader David Abdulah have warned against seemingly off-the-cuff timelines and policies, noting whatever policy is adopted it should be “properly worked out”.
Otherwise, Mr Abdulah said, “You create anxiety and fear and push back by other sectors of the economy. That’s not the way to operate in this pandemic when there is so much uncertainty”.
In addition to bars, restaurants, gyms, casinos and cinemas, the entertainment sector could be poised to resume some semblance of pre-covid19 life too, with the possibility of gatherings, concerts and more.
All over the world, such events have been staged successfully, with one example being the recent We Love New York City concert last month which saw only vaccinated patrons allowed in that city’s Central Park.
Businesses in that city, and many other cities in the world, are also requiring vaccines for entry, so there is a lot of experience with finding new ways to allow society to function as openly as possible while still living with the virus.
The introduction of safe zones could be an important test of how well the State and private sector can collaborate in the uncertain times ahead.