FLASHBACK - A couple gets their vaccination card verified by an employee at Digicel IMax Cinema One, Woodbrook Place, Port-of-Spain, before going to enjoy a movie during the reopening and implementation of Safe Zones for fully vaccinated members of the public, in October 2021.

The Couva Point Lisas Chamber of Commerce (CPLCC) is calling on the Government to expand the number of safe zones as part of its strategy to curb the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

Chamber President Mukesh Ramsingh made the call at a news conference on Wednesday.

“Since the lifting of the State of Emergency and the curfew, cases will be rising and have started to rise.  Safe zones have been effective in bars and restaurants and can be more effective in decreasing the spread of the virus,” Ramsingh said.

“We would like to ask that this system start off small with banks, groceries, religious organisations and also public spaces. We are hoping that eventually we can increase it to shopping malls and retail outlets,” he added.

Ramsingh also called for the opening of the sporting sector through safe zones at sporting facilities. 

“We also hope people are encouraged to get vaccinated. We think the safe zones are the way to go if we do not want to go into another lockdown,” he said.

President of the CPLCC, Mukesh Ramsingh, at Wednesday’s news conference. (Image: SHASTRI BOODAN)

The Couva Chamber president said the creation of additional safe zones would not call for additional labour, noting that workers doing sanitization and temperature checks can also check for vaccination cards.

Ramsingh assures that the call is not being made to segregate but to ensure choices are available.

“If you choose not to get vaccinated that means your choice is not to be in congregation, in a place where a lot of people can be,” he observed.

Ramsingh said the non-vaccinated can make online purchases and curb side pickups.

“We are just asking that the safe zones encourage more persons to get vaccinated so they can stay out of the ICU and stay away from death,” he said. 

Pointing out that a lot of people are still believing propaganda spread by conspiracy theorists, Ramsingh said:

“People have to understand the vaccine is not contagious but it is the virus that is contagious.”

The Couva Chamber president said he hopes the government can join with business chambers and other NGO’s to encourage more persons to get vaccinated.

About Safe Zones

Under government’s Safe Zones initiative, accredited business places are able to accept vaccinated customers only, who must have proof of vaccination on them at all times.  In addition, all employees of the establishment must be fully vaccinated, with copies of their vaccination cards kept on the premises to be available for inspection by the authorities, at any point in time.  Safe Zone businesses also must adhere strictly to the public health regulations governing the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, the Health Ministry allows for exemptions and deferrals to its Safe Zone policy.

“A person with an authentic Medical Exemption / Deferral Certificate and the required negative PCR Test as set out in the Public Health COVID-19 Regulations, may also be permitted within a TT Safe Zone location,” the ministry states in its online overview of the Safe Zone policy.

Business owners and operators who have three recorded breaches of the regulations may be prohibited from operating as a Safe Zone.

Safe Zone businesses include restaurants; bars; private members clubs; gaming houses, betting pools or offices; cinemas; theatres; gyms and fitness studios; and waterparks.