The outgoing chairman of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), Prime Minister Dr. Keith Rowley, said Saturday, said that the 15-member regional integration grouping will receive at least 800 000 doses of vaccines to help curb the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) from the African Union later this month.
In addition, Rowley, who hands over the chairmanship of CARICOM to his Antigua and Barbuda counterpart, Gaston Browne on Monday, said that the region will also receive 400,000 doses in August and a further half a million in September.
He said the vaccinations, coupled with existing supplies from other sources, will help the region move towards herd immunity by the end of the year.
“Virtually all of my chairman’s effort in CARICOM was on vaccines for the nations of CARICOM and during this month of July, we are expecting an improvement in the forecast we had made, because initially, I had told you the vaccines we were going to get from the African purchase would have been coming here towards the end of August.
“I have had a significant conversation with the . . . President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa where the vaccine is being produced and he has given me the commitment that whatever Africa produces, CARICOM will get a portion of it,” Rowley said.
He told reporters that subsequent meetings with officials of that programme “as late as yesterday, I have had confirmation that that situation is very positive at the moment and the first shipment to CARICOM would not be in August, but in July.
“So towards the middle of July we expect to get our first shipment, CARICOM approximately 800 000 doses and of that 800 000, Trinidad and Tobago is expected to get around 200 000 of it,” said Rowley, who told reporters that a planned shipment of vaccines under the COVAX facility that was due here on July 14, has again been delayed and now expected here in August.
Rowley said regarding the promised shipment of vaccines from the United States for the region, following conversations “we have had with all the authorities there that has progressed considerably, but it has not changed since I spoke with you last”.
“When I spoke to you last, I said decision were made, documentations were signed, so far the order to relapse the vaccines from that source has not yet come. There have been one or two little hiccups there which we are hoping . . . will disappear and that the order for the release of the vaccines will come to us from the United States [and] that’s another line of vaccines.”
He said Trinidad and Tobago and CARICOM continue to look at the market “to see whether vaccines are available for purchase”.
During the news conference, Rowley announced measures for the further re-opening of the economy, based on the favourable reports given by the health authorities, even as Trinidad and Tobago has recorded 866 deaths and 33, 153 positive cases since March last year.
Epidemiologist Dr Avery Hinds told reporters that there has been a down trend in recent weeks, adding “we are hoping that the trend continues”.
He said in week 25, the island recorded 1 526 cases and that projections for this week will be a 20 per cent decline.
Rowley said that all construction activities will resume on Monday and that he was appealing to the entire population to cooperate in preventing the spread of the virus.
“I am talking here about thousands of people who would now be allowed to come out and go back to their normal days work. Please be careful. Please wear your mask, sanitation is a must avoid congregation as far as you are able to.
“Go to work, do some work, earn some money to feed your families. The government’s programme has been there and that could not be a replacement, we tried to help as far as we could and you would have seen the logistical difficulties. So you in construction you come out to work on Monday, but please, like everybody else be careful,” Rowley said.
The government also confirmed that the borders will reopen on July 17 with Rowley warning that no unvaccinated foreign national would be allowed into the country.
He said also with two international airports here and in Tobago, “there will be conditions laid down”.
“The difference is that in Tobago we will not allow unvaccinated nationals to enter the country through Tobago. Unvaccinated nationals, you will have to enter through Piarco (International Airport in Trinidad) and if you are not a national, you will not enter at all as an unvaccinated person,” he said.
The health authorities said that PCR tests would be administered for persons entering the country and fully vaccinated before being allowed into the society. They said that those who have tested positive will be placed in state quarantine facilities at their own expense.