BROOKLYN, NY– The Trinidad and Tobago government Saturday announced a further easing of the restriction of measures to curb the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) based on a ramped-up mass vaccination program.
Prime Minister Dr. Keith Rowley, speaking at a news conference here, said that an estimated 800,000 vaccines should be arriving here from China on Tuesday. That would allow for an increased vaccination program being undertaken by the Ministry of Health.
Based on the vaccination program, the government would allow for re-opening the retail sector on Monday, followed on July 19 to re-open food establishments and some other sectors.
Last week, the government allowed for the reopening of the construction sector, and Rowley said that allowed for 45,000 people to earn a living.
Rowley said that the government would still keep in place the state of emergency and the curfew but would be monitoring the situation to ensure that those measures could be lifted as soon as possible.
He said that since the pandemic began and the announcement of a vaccine to help treat the effects of the virus, his administration had sought to acquire vaccines for at least 900,000 people to ensure a level of herd immunity here.
Rowley recalled the difficulties Trinidad and Tobago and other developing countries had in acquiring the vaccines since 70 percent of all vaccines produced were being used in rich and powerful countries.
He said the arrival of the Chinese-made Sinopharm vaccine on Tuesday and those other vaccines already here would allow for a significant number of people to be vaccinated by the end of July.
“The government of Trinidad and Tobago today has done what the government had set out to do, which is to provide the population with the vaccines that are required, and the population is now required to use those vaccines to protect itself on an individual basis.
“I want to thank all those volunteers from the private sector who have been working with the Ministry of Health in those vaccination programs….vaccinating people across the country, because many of those people who got vaccinated could have been people who would have been reported in the daily statistical expressions of people who were infected and could have come to a worst-case scenario,” Rowley said.
Health authorities acknowledged on Saturday that more than 300 people who had died over the past three months from the virus had not even had a single dose of the vaccine.
“We have to continue. We are now going to ramp up the vaccination program. We are going to have the mass vaccination program operate for many hours…so that by the end of July going into August, we should have a significant number, if not all those vaccines that are coming here on Tuesday, utilized in Trinidad and Tobago, Rowley said, adding “we will then be in a much better position than we were any time before or in fact that we could have anticipated.”
He said the idea is to get the vaccines “as quickly as possible into arms” as the government moves to further re-opening the economy.
He said the next set of workers to go back to their jobs would be those in the food establishment, restaurants, iterant and non-iterant businesses, curbside pick and take out, delivery, and drive through.
“We would like to begin that on the 19th of July …so you have a week to prepare and to come out smoothly,” he said, adding, “it is for good reason why we start this on Monday and not Friday or Saturday….I know my people.
“From the experiences we have had, we want to avoid the effects of the euphoria,” Rowley said, reminding persons that the health protocols including wearing masks and safe distancing would still apply.
“Those are the conditions under which we will be living in the future for a while, and from that date, we are going to allow members of the public to engage in restricted outdoor activities, no team, but groups of five under the same conditions.”
He said once the food establishments are opened, tens of thousands of people would be interacting again.
Trinidad and Tobago have recorded 930 deaths and 34 402 cases of the virus since March last year.