Whether it be; shopping, family gatherings, company parties, weekly sports games or simply going to work, everything has changed due to COVID-19.
One year on, we have a vaccine that offers us some degree of a return to normalcy.
Ironically, whilst some persons in the Virgin Islands are hesitant to take the freely available vaccines, our cousins in other islands are struggling to get vaccines.
In the English speaking Caribbean, there are roughly 5.5 million persons. The numbers are broken down as follows:
* 3 million in Jamaica
* 1.5 Mil in Trinidad and Tabago
* 1 million between the other countries
So, in order to reach herd immunity of 70 per cent vaccinated, they need a minimum of 3 million persons having both doses
Yet, major countries have been stocking up and or hoarding up available stock
“The UK. government has sought legal advice on preventing coronavirus vaccines or their ingredients being exported”
Politico.eu January 29, 2021
So, CARICOM nations have had to seek supplies from India and Africa and then share them among themselves.
“Caricom chairman Prime Minister Dr Keith C. Rowley has thanked the governments of India and of the African Union for allowing Caricom countries to have a pathway to access COVID-19 vaccines.
He also reiterated thanks to Barbados Prime Minister Mia A. Mottley for work on accessing vaccines for regional states.”
Cnc3.co.tt February 24, 2021
As it stands in the English speaking Caribbean region, less than 5 per cent of the population have been vaccinated. Meanwhile, in Bermuda, nearly 25 per cent of the population have been vaccinated.
Many may rightly ask what is the relevance of these statistics.
All Caribbean islands are overly reliant on the Tourism industry.
“Clear waters and warm sand attracted a record 31.5 million tourists to the Caribbean in 2019, but visits plummeted by an estimated 60% to 80% as the pandemic hit last year.”
Yahoo news March 2, 2021
Without tourists, there has been massive unemployment in the hospitality and related industries.
The knock-on effect is that governments around the region have no choice but to offer assistance to large proportions of their populations.
Effectively, a double whammy with less income and added expenses.
In Bermuda’s case, a triple whammy, as we have to pay AECON’s minimum revenue guarantee, due to lack of travellers at the new Air Terminal.
With the availability of the vaccines in the Overseas Territories, we have an opportunity to get our; resorts, hotels, guest houses and vacation rentals booked and restaurants back up and running at increased capacities
None of this will happen if our COVID numbers spike or travellers are feeling that our islands are hotspots.
When the issues of vaccines arise, we have to be thankful to the Ministry of Health under the leadership of Honourable Minister Carvin Malone (AL) and all those involved in the vaccination programme.
We cannot reverse time back to pre-march 2020; however, we must act in ways that position our region in a safer space.
Most importantly, let us always remember the tens of thousands that have been out of work for over one year. For them, COVID-19 has wiped out their savings and caused them to change their way of living in more ways than imagined.
Whether they be; taxi drivers, bartenders, cooks, waitresses or those who work in retail outlets.
These persons are our neighbours, family members and tenants. As such, we must bear in mind their economic well-being when it comes to deciding to take the free vaccines available via the Ministry of Health.