Experts concerned about COVID cases and future of tourism in Tobago
Former Health Minister Dr Fuad Khan says while there should be some concern, the COVID-19 statistics for Tobago is not anything to be worried about.
This comes after the island recorded 52 positive cases in just 24 hours last week, the highest since the start of the pandemic.
There had also been some worry about a cluster of COVID-19 cases at various departments of the Scarborough General Hospital. According to Dr Khan, while the island has a record of high incidences of obesity and comorbidities, “Tobago still has a low mortality rate and residents are resilient.”
He said the focus should be placed on personal responsibility and ramping up vaccinations.
“Even if you get positive COVID PCR tests the thing with PCR tests is that test has a high rate of false positives so you can’t depend on that test it is 20 -50 per cent inaccurate. So at the end of the day what people have to do is take personal responsibility for themselves in Tobago and follow the rules – wear your mask, distance and wash. The vaccine is here, take the vaccine because it will help you if you do get any infections.”
But Dr Khan said what should be of greater concern is the ongoing issue of unreliable interisland transportation. He said this will lead to the destruction of the domestic tourism market, which kept the sector afloat during the pandemic.
“The local tourism buffers for whatever little international tourism you have right now. Tobago is depending on the government to give them money and that is the end of the line nothing else is happening.”
However, Vice President of the Tobago Hotel and Tourism Association Carol-Ann Birchwood James said she disagrees with the position taken by Dr Khan. She said Tobago has now found itself in a “precarious position” as the number of cases appears to be increasing as restrictions are being relaxed and the Tourism sector has a high rate of vaccine hesitancy.
“We are concerned about the flights, we do have Tobagonians sleeping in the airport and can’t come home when they come in from international flights. We also have people who want to come for a holiday and can’t come and we’ve also had guests who have had flights cancelled after they have bought tickets to come to Tobago for a holiday leaving our hotels with no guests.”
She said stakeholders have also expressed concern about the rising number of COVID-19 cases and the rising deaths.
This is why Birchwood-James has appealed to Tobagonians to take the vaccine.
A similar appeal came from Chairman of the Tobago Business Chairman Martin George, who issued a personal plea for people living in Tobago to get vaccinated.
“The the science is clear follow the science don’t follow the superstition and old talk and bacchanal, 99 per cent of the persons who are now dying are unvaccinated. The longer we as an island remain unvaccinated the longer it will take for us to re-open the economy.”
He said when members of the business chamber called on the government to reopen the business sector and ramp up marketing, it is also expected members of the public would do their part and get vaccinated.
Guardian Media reached out to THA Chief Secretary Ancil Dennis for comment on whether attempts will be made to add additional flights to the domestic route. Up to news time, there was no response.
by Loyse Vincent