With the availability of COVID-19 vaccines at a relatively high rate in the Caribbean Community, several governments have moved in the past month to lift emergency restrictions, tweak night time curfews and ease limits to social activities as they struggle to normalize life while keeping an eye on new infections and fatalities.

The cabinet of Prime Minister Keith Rowley of Trinidad recently ended more than a year of emergency restrictions and abandoned nightly curfews which had had bar owners and restaurateurs complaining bitterly about revenue losses and mounting debts, including facility rentals.

But even as locals are now beginning to enjoy some of the pre-March 2020 social and other freedoms, authorities in the twin island republic of Tobago complained this week about a surge in the number of fatalities with a record 48 deaths over the weekend. The spike pushed Rowley to make yet another appeal for citizens to get vaccinated as the “reports are that we had the largest number of citizens dying in a day from the pandemic––28 people––and in fact the virus is still raging throughout the world, through Europe and the United States and, of course, through the Caribbean. We are not out of it but we are, in fact, choosing to fight to survive and all I can say to you tonight on this platform is the most important admonition I can give you, protect yourself from this virus. Get vaccinated. The vaccines are the only response that can give us any improvement in our physical condition to escape the ravages of the virus,” he said.

In neighboring Guyana, authorities have moved the curfew to midnight to 4.am from 6.pm a year ago as officials say they are encouraged by the fact that 51% of the adult population has been fully vaccinated but some outlying regions have rates as low as 23%. Medical authorities in Trinidad are also reporting a jab rate in excess of 50%. Flights between Guyana and Brazil and land border crossing with Brazil and Suriname have been allowed to resume in earnest after months of restrictions.

Awash with a wide array of vaccines including Sputnik V from Russia, others from China, the U.S., England and India, Guyanese officials say schools could even be opened in some of the administrative regions in January if children between the ages of five to 18 years continue to be inoculated against the virus.

“We are not going to be able to stay home anymore so shortly this country will resume to full normalcy in the classroom. Before long, sooner rather than later, we are going to go back to full return to the classroom,” Education Minister Priya Manickchand said recently.

Meanwhile, the Gaston Browne administration in Antigua is now allowing bars, restaurants and clubs to reopen to fully vaccinated patrons but the 11 p.m. curfew remains in effect. Nearby Barbados has pushed up its curfew by three hours to midnight as the country prepares to celebrate 55 years as an independent nation and as it prepares to dump Britain’s Queen Elizabeth as its head of state and replace her with Afro Barbadian governor general Sandra Mason at month end.

“If things get out of hand, we know how to bring it back. The easing of the curfew is no excuse for people to abandon the protocols and to abandon in particular mask wearing, or the other things that are necessary to keep us safe. We also recognize that parallel to what we are doing here, that as I said, we will expand and roll out the safety zones such that persons can feel more comfortable in doing what they have to do,” Prime Minister Mia Mottley said.

In the north Caribbean, The Bahamas and Jamaica have taken similar measures with the new Bahamian government doing away with night time curfews while still requiring mask mandates and other health protocols. Jamaica has maintained its 8 p.m. curfew but officials are to review this in mid December while preparing to announce amended measures for the Christmas holidays.

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