Tobago Chamber: Adjust curfew to enjoy ‘safe zones’
Tobago Business Chamber president Martin George believes the Government’s plan to offer perks for vaccinated people must be accompanied by an adjustment of the curfew hours.
After a three-day Cabinet retreat in Tobago on Friday, the Prime Minister said the Government was looking into reopening “safe zones” at the end of September where vaccinated people can enjoy in-house dining, go to casinos, gyms and even bars.
He said it was all conditional on a good vaccination uptake for September.
In an interview with Newsday on Sunday, George said he supported the plan, but believes the emergency powers regulations must be changed to accommodate the food and entertainment sector.
“I was among the first persons calling for reopening the entertainment sector only to vaccinated people. I called upon the Prime Minister several months ago to do that, to allow a relaxation of curfew hours to run up to midnight.
“But you can’t have a restaurant allow in-house dining but you have to stop serving food at 7.30pm for customers to finish eating, to clean up, and for employees to reach home before curfew hours at 9pm – that doesn’t make sense.”
George, an attorney, said Government will need to bring legislation outlining the provisions.
“From a legal perspective, it is perfectly legal and entirely possible. It may require legislative enactment by government. I’m sure you can’t place the burden on businesses to police this.”
He added, “The Government has the authority to implement legislation as necessary to protect the general public. We have had these legislation for years. Primary school students are vaccinated by mandatory vaccination under the public health act We all got our vaccines – polio, small box, measles. It’s nothing strange about that or no attempt to discriminate.
“It’s about taking decisions for the greater good.”
George said he’s noticed a trend locally and abroad where courts have upheld decisions by governments permitting only vaccinated people to partake in specific activities.
“What it comes back to is the fundamental bottom line. You look at science, you look at statistics, it appears vaccination is the key and the more people get vaccinated is better for us.”
Asked about the vaccine uptake in Tobago, George said the Government must find creative ways to influence the population.
“My approach has been motivate to vaccinate, but if not, mandate to vaccinate. I will always try the softer approach, offer incentives where necessary so they understand this is something for their good and the good of the country.
“I think they doing it slowly. But once numbers don’t come up to an appreciable level, government is gonna have to make a tough decision, or otherwise the economy is going to crash.
“We have to get things back to normal with investments, visitors etc. As much as we take our time with it, we have been a state of paralysis since January 2020.”
George said he was heartened to see on rush for Pfizer vaccines in Trinidad on Saturday.
He called for a greater public campaign to promote vaccination.
“I saw Iwer George doing a jingle, we need to get more artistes. Get the chutney artistes on board, every demographic.”
He was also pleased to hear Dr Rowley announce an increase in flights to Tobago and an increase in capacity for the seabridge.
“I would still urge people to try to be safe – wear masks, adhere to covid19 protocols and social distance.”
BY: STEPHON NICHOLAS