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Members of the public wait to receive the COVID-19 vaccine at the Ste Madeline Health Centre on Monday.

A glimmer of hope for travel?

Because so much vaccination has occurred in North America, once Trinidad and Tobago’s vaccination levels reach a certain height and as soon as they improve, Government “will see” on the issue of scheduled transport between this country, the US and Canada.

Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley indicated this in Parliament on Monday during debate on the extension of the State of Emergency to three months.

Rowley said there was a country where vaccination was going on in a big way. “We can now say very soon, once our vaccine level reach up a certain height, because so much vaccination has taken place in North America, then easily, vaccinated people can now travel from one country to another,” Rowley said.

“So we’ll see: scheduled transportation between T&T and the United States and Canada, as soon as there’s some … improvement in our vaccination here.”

But he added Trinidad and Tobago still had to be careful because the COVID-19 variants in India, South Africa, the US and England have become a feature of the management of the situation. He noted South Africa’s situation, UK shutting access to India as they felt threatened by the Indian variant and T&T felt threatened by the Brazilian variant.

On the three-month SoE, he said any reasonable citizen would know it couldn’t be expected that things would drastically improve in seven days. Rowley noted the 2011 SoE when several people were murdered. Now, he said everyone in T&T is threatened by standing in someone else’s breath space. He said T&T is among the last to seek an SoE, since local circumstances now require it and another Caricom countries were now debating extending theirs by six months.

Rowley said for those who feel this SoE ought not to happen and he’d “fallen down on the job, “…It has to be the whole world that fall down.”

He reeled off the many countries which had SoEs. Rowley said there’s no guarantee but it’s the option that worked best by others before.

He acknowledged complaints, “Ra, ra, ra, ra—restaurant! (But) restaurants in Toronto closed for over 360 days! Also Montreal, Los Angeles, Paris, Hong Kong —only this week New York restaurants opened. And this week, COVID shut down climbers on Mt Everest—of all places in the world!”

Supporting the SoE, he echoed statements the People’s Partnership administration made regarding their 2011 SoE—that they weren’t being irresponsible in having it.

“I say the same today,” he added.

Earlier in debate, Rowley said as soon as the situation returns to a place where the Cabinet feels this country could manage the virus without the SoE, it would terminate it.

“So it’s not to say we’re going for 90 days; it may be and we’re hoping we’d be able to terminate this inside of the 90 days,” he said.

“But I want to caution that heaven forbid—if we find ourselves as some countries have found themselves, when they were fighting widespread community spread—that if by the end of the 90 days we’re in a difficult situation, we will have to take a decision then as to what do we do.’’

Ridiculous! Saddam on being halted

Barataria/San Juan MP Saddam Hosein, the Opposition’s last speaker, was halted by House Leader Camille Robinson-Regis and Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi on many points he attempted to raise, on the basis he was repeating points already made by the Opposition.

Hosein expressed concern at the appointment of a former People’s National Movement attorney general to head the tribunal dealing with SoE detentions and issues.

“Justice must not only be done but also must be seen to be done,” Hosein said, citing possible issue of apparent bias on the part of the tribunal’s member.

Al-Rawi, however, shouted that impugning the Chief Justice’s decision offended the Constitution and Parliament’s Standing Orders.

“And I take great umbrage to a junior, sitting MP impinging on the jurisdiction of the Chief Justice—that offends the separation of powers!”

Hosein said T&T was facing an unprecedented time and, “If this is the attitude of the Government to the Opposition’s (points), they’re in it for themselves.” He then withdrew the statement on the House Speaker’s request.

Hosein was again halted by Al-Rawi’s interruption when he (Hosein) called for testing of people for virus variants beyond repatriated people only, as is being done.

Hosein snapped, “This is ridiculous now Madame Speaker, it’s an abuse of the Standing Orders!”

Advised to move on, he said the current time is one for leadership and leaders must set examples for the public.

“…When people go arm-wrestling without masks and when others go on platforms without masks and bouff the nation for not wearing masks—that’s the height of hypocrisy! The laws apply to us all equally, no matter who we are.”

The sitting, initially projected to end by 6.30 pm ended at 8.12 pm. The Lower House was adjourned to a date to be fixed, next month, when the mid-year review of the 2021 Budget will be presented.