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Calls are being made for citizens to take COVID vaccinations seriously following the passing of two prominent members of a San Fernando family.

Guardian Media was told that two members of the Chen family, died within days of each other from the COVID-19 virus.

Long-standing writer, sculptor and artist Willi Chen, 90, was said to be distraught and was not responding to calls up to news time.

Chen is one of the most loved artists in the city and a source said his phone ringing off the hook with dozens of calls from concerned people.

Responding to the tragedy, the president of the Greater San Fernando Chamber of Industry and Commerce Kiran Singh said the deaths underscored the importance of vaccinations.

Singh said he did not know whether the Chens were vaccinated or not, but noted that their passing had left a void in the city.

“The Chen family has added so much to the value of the southern society and to see them wiped out as a result of this virus, this deadly coronavirus is not what we wanted,” Singh said.

He added, “The San Fernando community is deeply saddened. This begs the question as to how these deaths are occurring at such a fast rate throughout the country.

“We are now pleading with the T&T public to continue to take the vaccine. While there is no guarantee that the vaccine will prevent a fatality, it certainly provides a layer of protection to ensure that you survive this pandemic that we are in,” Singh said.

He noted that the alarming infection rates were worrisome.

“It seems that congregating adds to the situation. COVID has become a spreader on a community scale because people are congregating. Those of us who didn’t take the vaccine will have a higher chance of dying. You must take pre-emptive measures now to take the wide choice of vaccines that are available to us,” Singh said.

He reiterated that the only way for the economy to prosper is for people to take the vaccine. He said there will be a lower spread if people take the vaccine.

“The unfortunate death of these people in South must provide significant data that we see it is affecting every one of us, family friends and icons. We are pleading with them to take the vaccine because your survival increases when we take the vaccine.

Meanwhile, the chairman of the San Fernando Arts Council who was close to the family Avion Crooks said Mrs Gene Chen was an extremely well-known patron of the arts at Naparima Bowl.

“It is unimaginable to think that she would pass,” Crooks said. She said she did not know anything about Chen’s illness except that she had passed.

Two other members of the council confirmed that the relatives had died from COVID.

Another one of Chen’s relatives remains hospitalised.