A major player in Tobago's diving industry says all divers on the island are vaccinated.
He is calling on Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley to reopen Tobago's beaches for half of the day, noting that it will act as an incentive for Trinidadians to visit Tobago and allow health professionals to test COVID-prevention measures.
The owner of Undersea Tobago, Derek Chung, said reopening beaches for a short time each day is the only way the Tobago economy will survive.
"The diving industry would like the Government to reopen for at least half a day. Everybody else would benefit as well. There is no documentation to indicate that people contract COVID on the beach. You see reports coming out of England. They have opened up beaches and had more crowd than they expected."
The diver with more than three decades of diving experience said Easter, July/August vacation, and Christmas are peak periods for the diving industry.
"Even in the best of times, we rely on the summer traffic to take us through the off-period when things are slow. We are really hoping we get part of the beaches open for August."
The former president of the Association of Tobago Dive Operators explained that the divers have Professional Association of Diving Instructors(PADI) certification and follow PADI's COVID prevention protocols.
"You walk into the hotel, and your temperature is checked. You get fully sanitized equipment. All the divers are vaccinated. We also follow the World Travel and Tourism Council's and Caribbean Public Health Agency's COVID protocols."
Divers in Tobago
He also painted a picture of what guests at hotels now face.
"You are at the hotel but can't go to the beach or pool. You can't eat in the restaurant either. You can't eat anywhere in public. Who would want to visit and just sit around without at least going to the beach, even for a short time?"
He said the reopening of the beaches would result in more demand for inter-island flights.
"Then we can see hotels that are already open getting some guests and offsetting some costs. Right now, some hotels are open, but there are no guests. Hotels still have operating costs," Chung said.
The diver said, he like many others, is facing financial hardship with no end in sight.
"At first, the banks offered a moratorium and deferred payment plans. Now they want their money. How do we pay the financial institutions if we are not getting an income? How do we pay workers."
"It's the third lockdown since March last year. I have four permanent staff. I can only give them a day's work pay whenever I employ them. Now I don't even know when we will get work as the beaches are closed."
" As a country, we know we have to operate with COVID-19. The Prime Minister (Dr Keith Rowley) should consider reopening the beaches for a short time each day," Chung said.