Fresh hope on the horizon / Signs of hope for the re­open­ing of the econ­o­my came yes­ter­day with some time­lines an­nounced by Prime Min­is­ter Dr Kei­th Row­ley.

As of to­mor­row, the man­u­fac­tur­ing and ve­hi­cle sale sec­tors will be al­lowed to re­open, join­ing the con­struc­tion sec­tor, where 45,000 work­ers be­gan mo­bil­is­ing last week and should re­sume full ac­tiv­i­ty to­mor­row. Dr Row­ley al­so an­nounced that the restau­rant and pre­pared food sec­tor will re­open on Ju­ly 19.

Cou­pled with the re­open­ing of the bor­ders on Ju­ly 17, this must be good news for many who have vir­tu­al­ly been play­ing a cat-and-mouse game with the po­lice, with the prospect of stiff penal­ties if caught, as they sought to make a liveli­hood at a time when most busi­ness op­er­a­tions were shut down. Some in­di­vid­u­als had even gone as far as to ad­just their busi­ness mod­ules to find a way to op­er­ate and sur­vive amid a crip­pling pe­ri­od of ex­tend­ed lock­down.

The re­open­ing of more sec­tors of busi­ness is, there­fore, good news, es­pe­cial­ly as Dr Row­ley him­self yes­ter­day ac­knowl­edged the lock­downs over the past 15 months have led to an eco­nom­ic dis­as­ter.

It is even more heart­en­ing to hear 800,000 more Sinopharm vac­cines are ar­riv­ing from Chi­na on Tues­day, with a mass roll­out plan tar­get­ed to be­gin Fri­day.

But there is a note of cau­tion that must be sound­ed. The best way for things to get back to nor­mal with­out any ma­jor prob­lem re­mains in the pop­u­la­tion’s hands. Cit­i­zens must take every op­por­tu­ni­ty to get vac­ci­nat­ed and to con­tin­ue to ex­hib­it the dis­ci­pline need­ed in fol­low­ing the COVID-19 safe­ty pro­to­cols.

There is a lot of mis­in­for­ma­tion and too much neg­a­tiv­i­ty on so­cial me­dia about the ef­fi­ca­cy and safe­ty of vac­cines. We urge the pop­u­la­tion, as the Prime Min­is­ter has done, to get vac­ci­nat­ed since it re­mains one of the best weapons in the ar­se­nal against the dead­ly dis­ease.

That is crit­i­cal to get­ting the wheels of the econ­o­my turn­ing again. The equa­tion is re­al­ly sim­ple—do we want to con­tin­ue un­der the sti­fling mea­sures forced up­on us to curb the un­con­trol­lable spread of the virus or do we want to re­turn to a sense of nor­mal­cy as soon as pos­si­ble.

Trinidad and To­ba­go is about all of us, not just a few. We join the Prime Min­is­ter in urg­ing the pop­u­la­tion to make the de­ci­sion to get vac­ci­nat­ed. There are very few peo­ple who have sound med­ical and oth­er rea­sons why they can­not get vac­ci­nat­ed, but the vast ma­jor­i­ty can. With the threat of a more vir­u­lent strain lurk­ing, how­ev­er, we can­not take the chance of hav­ing huge sec­tors of the pop­u­la­tion still vul­ner­a­ble to con­t­a­m­i­na­tion.

As of yes­ter­day, 140, 568 peo­ple were ful­ly vac­ci­nat­ed and 225,546 had re­ceived the first dose. How­ev­er, 935 peo­ple had al­so died from the virus and 34,577 had con­tract­ed it. The num­bers speak for them­selves. But the da­ta al­so shows that coun­tries that are do­ing well are those where cit­i­zens have been ful­ly vac­ci­nat­ed. We now stand a bet­ter chance with the promise of a steady flow of vac­cines from this month. We can join those coun­tries, but the mis­in­for­ma­tion and an­ti-vax­ing cam­paigns must stop if Trinidad and To­ba­go is to re­al­ly stand a fight­ing chance.

LINK ORIGINAL: The Trinidad Guardian

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