Of all the 15 nations in the Caribbean Community, Trinidad has been among the countries with some of the tightest COVID-19 restrictions with its airport and marine borders shuttered since March of last year.
Caribbean Airlines, the national and regional flagship carrier, has been forced to switch hubs to other countries like Guyana, Barbados and Jamaica to allow it to continue flying to Caribbean and North American destinations while bringing in much needed cash, keeping its crews employed and active.
Authorities in the twin island republic with Tobago have also invoked a series of crippling night and sometimes daytime curfews to stem an astronomical increase in positive cases and a frightening hike in deaths with up to 24 in one day last month. As the week began, the nation has recorded 737 deaths so far, meaning that 610 people have died this year alone including a staggering 326 last month, including doctors, police officers and prominent sports personalities.
But even as the fatalities and positive cases continue to worry officials, Prime Minister Keith Rowley brought some positive news to citizens at the weekend by announcing plans to reopen borders by mid next month and to ease border restrictions in place for more than 15 months.
Construction projects can resume in the coming week while the two main international airports and marine borders will normalize services from mid July except if the situation changes dramatically. The 7 p.m. to daybreak curfew will almost likely be lifted, Rowley said, warning that the island is running out of vaccine doses for its immunization program. Schools are on track for a September restart as well.
As Trinidad prepares for fewer restrictions, Prime Minister Gaston Browne of Antigua is taking his island in the opposite direction, extending state of emergency measures for an additional three months to the chagrin of the business community and the opposition. The opposition United Progressive Party says the measures are designed to stifle political activities with Browne already hinting that he may soon call snap elections. Brown counters that the emergency measures are to suppress large super spreader gatherings.
“Even the fete we are approving for up to 300 individuals, hopefully next month, will be carried out under strict conditions involving only fully vaccinated individuals. Why would we then want to go and have a very liberal COVID policy to allow public meetings so that unvaccinated and vaccinated people could gather in their hundreds or thousands?” he said in a radio broadcast.
And in Bermuda meanwhile, a row has erupted among big wigs in the governing Afro-dominated Progressive Labor Party of Premier David Burt over plans to force unvaccinated arrivals to quarantine in government picked hotels at their own expense.
Many PLP lawmakers railed against the measures that are scheduled to become active in a week.
The Royal Gazette newspaper quoted Deputy House Speaker Derrick Burgess as arguing that the policy is discriminatory as locals headed home who are not vaccinated might not even be able to board aircraft.
“The discriminatory part of it is, if you don’t have this form, then I am told you cannot get on the flight. Well, I don’t think you can deny my right to come home. Common sense tells me that is against the law.”
The island has done fairly well with its vaccination program and with keeping the fatality and infection rates relatively low. PM Burt says islanders have to live in safety.
“This government cannot ignore its duty in order to make sure that we protect our popularity. That is not what leadership is. It means standing strong and knowing that the decisions you make, though they may not be popular, are the right ones. We cannot put a price on Bermudian lives.”