Cruise ships from around the world have been asking permission to return to Tobago.
Chief Secretary Farley Augustine made the announcement on Monday as he spoke to reporters in Scarborough. Cruise ships have been banned from entering local shores since March 2020 as a precaution against covid19. But with the international borders reopened and global tourism travel being rekindled, Augustine said the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) has been getting more and more requests from cruise liners to visit the island.
However, Augustine made it clear that a vaccinated population is important. He said the THA is intent on influencing, convincing and educating Tobagonians about the covid19 vaccines. As of Monday, 23,903 people have been fully vaccinated in Tobago. The island has a population of about 60,000.
Augustine said, “Here is the reality that Tobagonians have to face: these entities, they are coming with people who are all 100 per cent vaccinated. When they get here, they want to only be served by vaccinated service providers; they want to interact with vaccinated tour guides, bus drivers, shopkeepers, artisans, and so on.”
He said while vaccination remains a personal choice, the reality is that the world may leave the unvaccinated behind.
“Even in those considerations, I was looking at it across my desk and I’ve even started talking to the Maxi Taxis Association, I have some others to talk to. So, if you recognise I have not spoken to you as yet, I would be coming to you to speak to you. The idea is that the rest of the world wants to do business with people who are vaccinated, and it's an unfortunate place where some people seemingly have been locked out, but we have to work with what we have.”
He added: “We have to remember to be safe and in all that you’re doing, after consciously deciding to take the vaccine, you still have to be as safe as possible.”
Augustine remains optimistic and said the decision by Deputy Chief Secretary Watson Duke to get vaccinated against covid19 shows people can be persuaded. In a Facebook video on Friday, Duke called his decision “fascinating” and one that would “challenge the way you think.” Duke had been vehemently opposed to the vaccine on social media, before stunningly reversing his stance.
Augustine said, “The same kind of effort and work that went into members of the team working with Mr Duke from where he was and influencing him and convincing him and educating him about the vaccine and getting him and his family to that place of taking the vaccine – is that same kind of work that we are going to be doing on the ground in Tobago.”
He added: “For those of us in the team who has been vaccinated for a long while, you would know that our party’s position has been and still is one of vaccination by choice. But we also recognise and appreciate the science behind vaccination.”
Last Wednesday during the weekly post Executive Council media briefing, Augustine presented preliminary vaccination statistics for workers within the THA’s various divisions as compiled by the Office of the Chief Administrator Bernadette Solomon-Koroma. He said according to the data, the assembly is significantly below its target.
“As an island, we are just about 24,000 vaccinated and so we are going to continue to educate people, we are going to continue to work with people where they are – we are not forcing anybody, we’re not walking around jabbing the vaccines down people’s throat or jabbing vaccines into their arms.
"We are about educating people and bringing people to a place where they can make a conscious and an educated choice. We are also looking at, as a broader picture, how do we get our economy reopened, back up and running.”