Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley is holding out hope that by the end of this month, Government will be in a position to reopen bars, restaurants and gyms if citizens do the right thing and get vaccinated.
Following a Cabinet retreat in Tobago yesterday, the Prime Minister expressed disappointment that citizens had not been in any hurry to get inoculated.
Dr Rowley noted that while Tobagonians had been clamouring for beaches to be reopened, they had been refusing vaccines and made it clear further reopening will only happen when the vaccination percentages increase. The Prime Minister opined it was a pity that Tobago did not grasp the opportunity, as the island could have been marketed as a safe zone.
As it now stands, just over 36.7 per cent of the population has received a first dose and 28.7 per cent are fully vaccinated.
Dr Rowley has joined world leaders in describing COVID-19 as a pandemic of the unvaccinated and used the opportunity to again urge the population to get vaccinated.
The glaring reality not just in Trinidad and Tobago but across the globe is that unvaccinated people overwhelmingly account for new cases and serious infections. Health officials have constantly told the population that the largest number of persons hospitalised currently are unvaccinated.
Unfortunately, dubbing it a pandemic of the unvaccinated has done little to convince the vaccine-hesitant to change their approach. Not even the fact that T&T now offers more vaccine choices than most countries has made a difference.
There are many people employed in restaurants, bars, gyms and private members’ clubs who have been out of work for several months. For them, it would be a welcome relief to be back on the job and earning again to take care of their families.
The unfortunate reality, though, is that those who have refused vaccines apparently care little about their personal safety or that of their loved ones, so it would mean very little to them that getting vaccinated could mean a return to normalcy for so many who have been hit hard by the COVID fallout.
Despite Tobagonians’ vaccine hesitancy, Dr Rowley is still expanding the capacity on the seabridge from 50 to 75 per cent and flights between the two islands will also be increased. It’s a game of chance, given that in both islands there are thousands who still unvaccinated will be happy to travel between the islands.
It may well be a big gamble and could create a bigger COVID problem for T&T, but how long can things stay in lockdown with the authorities having to continuously beg the population to get vaccinated. Citizens need to make the collective choice in the interest of everyone, including the thousands of children who are dying to return to school.
There is now a wide range of vaccine choice and it is anybody’s guess as to why citizens still continue to be hesitant when the science clearly shows it is the best protection against COVID-19, especially with the new strains emerging.
This newspaper fully endorses the mass vaccination drive but it is still up to the unvaccinated to make the difference by accessing the vaccines so we can reach herd immunity.