Tobago business leaders fear Brazil variant could derail reopening


Zaref Deeb, front, manager of Gyro King, grills chicken at his restaurant in Crown Point last Thursday. Fast food lovers were back at their favourite spots after the Prime Minister announced food outlets were permitted to reopen. PHOTO BY DAVID REID –

Tobago’s business leaders fear the presence of the Brazilian covid19 variant on the island could prevent a further reopening of the economy.

On Tuesday, the THA Division of Health, Wellness and Family Development confirmed the island had its first case of the variant.

It added the Brazilian variant is more contagious than the original virus.

The division said it is ramping up testing to prevent the virus from spreading among the population.

County Medical Officer of Health Dr Tiffany Hoyte said the Brazilian variant is contributing to an increase in covid19 cases on the island.

On Wednesday, the division reported Tobago’s covid19 death toll was now 40 after an 81-year-old woman with comorbidities died from the virus.

It said there were 17 new covid19 cases and 324 active cases.

Tobago Hotel and Tourism Association vice-president Carol-Ann Birchwood-James said, “We are now slowly coming out of a lockdown and we are now trying to get the economy up and running,

“But the authorities are going to be watching the numbers in Tobago. Remember, we are a small population. And, if you have a variant that is catching fast, then we are going to have more numbers testing positive.”

As a result, Birchwood-James renewed her appeal for Tobagonians to get vaccinated.

“All those who are hesitant about the vaccine, get vaccinated now. The Brazilian variant is (more) highly contagious than the ordinary coronavirus, and we do have the Delta variant on the horizon. We don’t even know if it is here yet.

“The research has not shown that it is here yet. But it is going to come. So now is the time for us in Tobago to get vaccinated. We cannot wait, because our numbers are not looking good.”

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