Business community relieved as PM announces no restrictions

Shoppers taking advantage of Black Friday sales at the Falls, West Mall a day after the prime minister addressed the nation and warned that TT's health system is hovering dangerously to collapse due to rising covid19 infections. PHOTO BY SUREASH CHOLAI -
Shoppers taking advantage of Black Friday sales at the Falls, West Mall a day after the prime minister addressed the nation and warned that TT's health system is hovering dangerously to collapse due to rising covid19 infections. PHOTO BY SUREASH CHOLAI -

THE business community heaved a collective sigh of relief after the Prime Minister’s address on Thursday did not herald any new punitive measures such as a return to lockdowns even in the face of rising covid19 infections and deaths.

Referring to comments Dr Rowley made in his address, Greater San Fernando Chamber of Commerce president Kiran Singh praised Government for not reimposing restrictions and instead "giving us the chance to act responsibly with respect to protecting ourselves from this deadly virus."

Singh viewed the potential reopening of beaches to vaccinated people and safe zone events for Carnival 2022, as incentives offered to persuade citizens to adhere to public health regulations and to also get vaccinated.

While the Christmas season will not see sales return to pre-pandemic levels, he said there is optimism amongst businesses that sales will be higher than at the same time last year.

With this in mind, relief over no new restrictions being announced, was palpable.

"The lifting of the SoE (state of emergency) and ending of the curfew (on November 17) has had a positive effect on the entire economy as commercial activity has increased, and workers are being re-employed in the retail and entertainment sectors to serve the influx of customers," Singh said.



Greater Chaguanas Chamber of Commerce president Richie Sookhai said, "We are appealing to the country to consider the state of the parallel health care system and get vaccinated."

The business community, he added, respects that Government may have to take certain decisions if covid19 cases continues to rise.

"We appeal to businesses and members of the public to use moral suasion to get their employees and loved ones vaccinated." Regardless of individuals' vaccination status, Sookhai said recent increases in covid19 cases underscore the need for all to obey public health regulations, which are in place for the safety of all.

On the reopening of beaches to vaccinated people, Sookhai suggested this be done within strict time periods such as 5 am to 4 pm.

With beaches having been closed for months due to increasing covid19 cases, the expected flocking of people to beaches once they are open, must be prevented.

"Crowding can spiral out of hand without proper controls and this can also cause another spike in the covid19 numbers."



Supermarkets Association president Rajiv Diptee said Rowley understood the realities of rising covid19 cases and deaths, flatlining vaccination rates and keeping the economy on a path towards recovery.

Rowley, he continued, may have tough calls to make where mandatory covid19 vaccination is concerned. The rights of citizens to be vaccinated must be equally respected with the rights of those who choose to be unvaccinated.

"A pyre of regrets we face now as a nation as the death toll continues to rise with the virus now settling the issue for those on the fence." For any form of Carnival to be feasible in 2022, Diptee said, "The requirement to be vaccinated must be made more onerous in a public setting."

Confederation of Regional Business Chambers co-ordinator Jai Leladarsingh said the fact that only 45.5 per cent of the population have been vaccinated against covid19 is a deep source of concern.

People who meet the criteria for a covid19 booster, he continued, should get one as soon as possible.

Confederation chairman Vivek Charran said, "TT is at a critical juncture, and we cannot afford to have a situation where the health sector is reaching an emergency national crisis."

He agreed with Singh and Sookhai about business sustainability and viability hinging heavily on getting more unvaccinated citizens vaccinated. "It is imperative that we achieve herd immunity."



In a statement, the TT Chamber of Industry and Commerce said, "We are comforted by what appears to be a realisation that further lockdowns should not be the course of action pursued."

Based on what is happening in other countries, it is a predictable outcome that a large percentage of the population will contract covid19.

But the chamber said. "We have some influence on how many of them will die because they are unvaccinated. It is the responsibility of each individual to help avoid this."

In a statement, the American Chamber of Commerce of TT (AMCHAM) recognised the gravity of the situation facing TT.

Noting measures taken by other countries to increase vaccination rates, AMCHAM said should the vaccination rate in TT not increase, "we agree that Government may have to implement new measures to ensure increased levels of vaccination."

AMCHAM said it supports any action by Government to adopt and publish a policy which makes it clearly permissible for an employer to implement a mandatory covid19 vaccination workplace policy, supported by a clear process, with reasonable exceptions and subject to the conduct of a risk assessment.

This is important given public statements by Industrial Court president Deborah Thomas-Felix that it is illegal for any employer to mandate that their employees be vaccinated against covid19.

Former energy minister Kevin Ramnarine suggested Government improve its covid19 communications strategy.

"They need a grassroots community based strategy. I don't think the strategy of bombarding the country with statistics and graphs is working."

Ramnarine estimated that at least 55 per cent of the population remains unvaccinated and these people must get vaccinated soon.


"Business community relieved as PM announces no restrictions"

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