Travel within Caribbean should not be limited by type of vaccine – Pres. Ali
President Dr. Irfaan Ali has firmly stated that the travel of Caribbean Community (CARICOM) nationals within the region should not be constrained by which COVID-19 vaccine an individual took.
At the recently concluded Heads of Government meeting of CARICOM, the regional heads agreed that a more coordinated approach to tackling the COVID-19 pandemic while boosting economic activity, including tourism, was needed.
In fact, a “harmonised” health protocol for intra-regional was a suggestion floated by Chairman of CARICOM and Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda, Gaston Browne.
On Monday, during the press conference, President Ali said that the CARICOM nations, except for Trinidad and Tobago, agreed that Caribbean citizens would be allowed to travel freely in the region regardless of which vaccine they have been vaccinated with.
Trinidad and Tobago, however, has maintained that it will only be accepting individuals who have been fully vaccinated with those vaccines approved by the World Health Organization (WHO).
That, therefore, means that all of Guyanese who have been vaccinated with the Russian-made Sputnik V vaccine would not be allowed to enter that country, until the vaccine gains WHO approval.
Once again, President Ali explained that the local authorities tried to secure those WHO approved vaccines but were not able to due to global demand and supply challenges. Instead, he reminded members of the media that Guyana was able to secure the Sputnik V vaccine.
“… we invested in it because the lives of the people matter and I don’t think we should deny persons who took these vaccines the freedom to move within the region,” he said seriously.
While acknowledging that governments have had to make difficult decisions when crafting policies to protect citizens due to the COVID-19 pandemic, he said that Guyana made the decision to safeguard the lives of its people and help the economy recover.
“We see no distinction in the vaccination programmes, whether it is Sputnik, Sinopharm Pfizer or Moderna; there is no distinction for us in our eyes for the vaccination programme,” the President emphasised.
Meanwhile, the President also commented on the “special relationship” Guyana shared with Trinidad and Tobago.
At a recent press conference, Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago Dr. Keith Rowley pointed out that Guyana’s vaccination campaign got underway much faster than Trinidad’s because Guyana was using unapproved vaccines. There had been reports that this statement soured the relationship between the two countries.
According to the President, however, there are no sour relations and his government’s policy towards the country would not change. He also spoke about Guyana welcoming “style” towards numerous Trinidadian investors.
President Ali also said that Guyana is not aiming to become a “powerhouse” in the region, but rather that the country is aiming to enhance the prospect of people in Guyana and the wider Caribbean.
“… whatever resources Guyana gets from this oil and gas sector and all other sectors, will not only benefit Guyanese but all the people of CARICOM,” he highlighted.