Places of worship can resume from Monday and Government is cautiously hoping to reopen certain businesses as “safe zones” for vaccinated people by early October, from in-house restaurant dining to cinemas, gyms and bars.
And while it’s a little too early to say if Carnival 2022 will be completely compromised, there may be some Carnival related-activities that might be encouraged if Trinidad and Tobago is in a good place with vaccinations.
Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley indicated this yesterday after Cabinet’s retreat in Tobago.
However, he expressed deep concern about Tobago’s low vaccination rate and lack of cooperation for vaccines.
During the three-day retreat, ministers made presentations on their ministries and discussed the future direction for T&T, particularly for the upcoming 2022 Budget.
Also present was the Government’s full team of medical experts.
Dr Rowley said Thursday’s report showed T&T had slightly improved regarding hospitals’ positions, although there are some patients who are still quite ill. However, infection levels haven’t changed much and are still in the plateau of recent days.
Also, vaccination levels are at around 29.1 per cent fully vaccinated and 36.8 per cent having received one dose. Against that background, he said a few adjustments would be done and cautious moves were being considered to reopen more sectors.
Rowley noted that when he last spoke on the issue, he referred to the reopening of places of worship.
He said this would be done from Monday.
“So you can go back but not all of you. We’re asking managers of churches to use a level of 25 per cent of their normal capacity, not to congregate to the fullest.
“We also ask that the service be no longer than an hour,’’ he said.
He called on managers of places of worship - from churches to mandirs and mosques - to encourage participants to get vaccinated, “as vaccination improves safety.”
Nationally, he said the Government concluded that if projections remain with the curves in the data which were seen, without a worsening of the situation and with an aggressive vaccination drive this month, it was anticipated by month-end that there might be certain aspects of business which could be operated as safe zones.
These would be areas “where one could encourage vaccinated people to participate in gyms, in-house restaurant dining, cinemas, casinos and hopefully bars.”
Bars have been closed since the Government implemented COVID-19 restrictions last year.
He believes that possibly by month-end, Government should be in a position to make “some changes” regarding the bar sector.
Rowley confirmed that reference to “safe zones” will involve vaccinated people. Within that definition, whatever bar operations might occur would involve the proprietor and patrons.
He is seeking to increase vaccinations between now and the end of the month, especially in Tobago.
Because of another aggressive vaccination drive this month, if there’s no increased risk that threatens programmes, then Government would open a bit more. He said the situation would be observed over two cycles of 14 days each, as the COVID incubation period was 14 days.
“But we have to ensure we don’t get over-eager and do things that cause us to revert,” Rowley warned
He said the situation was still a little way off from reopening sporting activities and Government also didn’t want to “get ahead of ourselves” with party promoters.
He didn’t anticipate encouraging partying by early October, since such events encourage congregating which provides virus spread.
“So maybe the partying won’t start then,” he said.
If the situation in T&T is such that it can’t go further in terms of a cautious approach of reopening in the next four weeks, “Then we don’t.”
But if there’s no reversal and no spiking/explosion of cases, more will be done on reopening.
Dr Rowley said that at this point, he didn’t see Carnival parades where large masses come together happening, as that’s an environment that might still be threatened next February.
But it’s a little too early to say if Carnival 2021 will be completely compromised, he added.
If T&T’s in a good position vaccination-wise, there are other kinds of Carnival activities that may be encouraged depending on the circumstances, he said. He promised a conversation on Carnival will come up soon.
He also replied to demands in Tobago to reopen beaches, noting the last time beaches were opened there was a spike in cases.
He pointed out that there was a lack of co-operation in Tobago on vaccination and said it couldn’t be that there was non-cooperation with the cure, yet a demand for a return to the beaches.
Rowley said at the vaccination rate T&T’s going at, it’s expected if this is maintained better, by the end of the year the majority of people in T&T should be vaccinated and that will put the country in a much better position to take certain kinds of decisions.
“Vaccinate, vaccine, vaccinate,” the Prime Minister said.
Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley also continued to encourage parents to have children over age 12 vaccinated with the Pfizer vaccine, so that there can be a vaccinated student population when school buildings reopen in October with “serious schooling” for Forms 4 to 6.
He said there were enough vaccines reserved for students and from today, Government will also make available 50,000 extra Pfizer doses to 25,000 adults.
There’s a “fair” amount of the one-dose Johnson and Johnson vaccine, a small amount of AstraZeneca and a large amount of Sinopharm currently, he said.
“So our population has options and choices and our vaccination drive in September will be aggressive and hopefully encouraging and successful.”