Businesses that have been closed or restricted amid the Covid-19 pandemic are finally being allowed to fully reopen from October 11.
But only people who have been fully vaccinated against Covid-19 will have access.
Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley made the announcement yesterday, as he noted that Covid-19 is here to stay and the world must learn to live with it.
As of October 11, food businesses, entertainment centres, gyms, fitness centres, bars and restaurants will reopen to people over the age of 12 who are fully vaccinated, he said.
Additionally, the Government will consider reopening beaches and allowing group sporting events in the coming weeks.
Rowley announced the decision during yesterday’s post-Cabinet news conference at the Diplomatic Centre in St Ann’s.
Proof of vaccination
Giving further details, Minister in the Office of the Prime Minister Stuart Young said the reopening to vaccinated people only is part of the Government’s efforts to create “safe zones”.
Patrons visiting these safe zones will be required to produce proof of vaccination to be allowed entry.
Business owners and their employees will also be required to show proof of vaccination.
Young said business owners will be liable to ensure that their employees are vaccinated or face a fine and eventual closure.
He said a poster is being developed which is to be displayed by compliant businesses to indicate that they are a safe zone environment.
With this system in place, restaurants will be able to resume in-house dining. However, bars and restaurants will not be allowed to serve alcohol on their premises.
All establishments are to operate at 50-per cent capacity, and patrons must continue to wear masks except when eating or drinking.
For people who may consider fraudulently obtaining a vaccination card to access the safe zones, Rowley said there will be consequences and those caught will face the full brunt of the law.
Young added that digital vaccination cards are being developed with roll-out expected to begin in the next four to six weeks.
But even with the ease in restrictions for fully vaccinated people, the current state of emergency will remain in place, with a one-hour extension in the current curfew hours.
Currently movement is allowed between 5 a.m. and 9 p.m.
From next Monday, this will be extended to 10 p.m.
Rowley defended the decision to allow safe zone access only to vaccinated people.
He said this was something being done across the world as efforts are being made to return to some form of normalcy after almost two years of the Covid-19 pandemic.
He said there are those who interpret these decisions as bullying and taking away citizens’ rights. But he noted that some countries, including Caricom countries, have taken much stricter measures. He said T&T had not taken any draconian or dictatorial measures, as this country had sought to encourage vaccination rather than mandate it.
“Very firm action was taken in Australia and Canada. Very firm action,” Rowley said.
“If some of those actions were taken in Trinidad and Tobago, we would not get the same result...”
Rowley criticised people who he said feel as though they are more qualified than medical experts.
“A significant portion of the population that panicked when we were ignorant of the biology of this virus and the physiology of the human body in responding to it, that same population now has many experts who are more expert than Dr Hinds, Dr Parasram and the WHO,” he said.
The Prime Minister lamented that vaccination numbers are still not where they should be.
As of yesterday, 473,097 people in Trinidad and Tobago were fully vaccinated, representing some 33 per cent of the population.