Safe-zone Carnival events will encourage more vaccinations

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President of the TT Promoters Association Jerome “Rome” Precilla at a news conference on Wednesday at Queen’s Hall in St Ann’s. – Angelo Marcelle

The Trinidad and Tobago Promoters Association (TTPA) says it believes more people will be encouraged to become vaccinated one the approval for safe-zone Carnival events is given.

The association’s president, Jerome Precilla, at a news conference at Queen’s Hall, St Ann’s on Wednesday, called for the reopening of the events sector and for the green light to be given for the planning of Carnival 2023.

The news conference was held hours before the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and the Arts issued a release on Government’s decision to allow concert-type events at approved venues for fully vaccinated participants only.

Citing the country’s stagnating vaccination rates, Precilla said the association has asked how government intends to improve the numbers without giving people additional incentives.

“If you’re telling us that we cannot have events, even if it’s vaccinated persons only, then to the partygoer who would be encouraged to attend an event like this, you are giving them no hope.”

Precilla prefaced his comments by saying the association does not wish to contribute to new covid19 cases or deaths but want to be allowed to organise events in a responsible manner in order for stakeholders in the industry to stay afloat.

“We are not tone-deaf. We know what is going on out there and we have been very, very patient,” he said.

“The last thing we would want as the TTPA or the events sector, is to reopen our sector and be the ones responsible for causing a spike (in cases) or for the loss of more lives. We are not here to be irresponsible.”

Precilla, who is also a soca artiste and radio personality, said the association has been in discussions with the government since last May in terms of the outlook of the events sector but noted that no compromises had been reached.

He said stakeholders in the events industry have suffered the most since the pandemic reached TT, and that the TTPA’s patience has run out after fruitless discussions with the government.

“We have been the only industry in TT that has not reopened after two years, and has not been given the chance, a glimmer, an opportunity to see if we reopen what would happen.

“Everybody else has been given that opportunity and we felt as though we have been silent for way too long. And we have been silent because we have been negotiating with the government to see how this would unfold.”

Some of the association’s members, he said, have been forced to sell equipment to pay mortgages, rent, or just to survive.

“(We do not) want a handout, we want to go out there to work.”

As it stands, only seated events are being considered. However, he said it begs the question about next year’s Carnival events and beyond.

“This is 2022 Carnival. Covid19 will most likely be here for 2023 Carnival. Are we going to have the exact same thing over again? When are we going to reach the point where we realise as a country we have to live with this thing and our lives have to move on?”

Precilla said the association has been in full support for the prospect of hosting events only for vaccinated people. However, he said doing so for seated patrons only, and at half-capacity, is not tenable, owing to the many overhead costs associated with hosting events.

He compared regulations in Barbados with those at home, noting the similarities in vaccination rates (around 50 per cent) between both countries.

“Yet still,” he said, “Barbados allowed events for up to 500 persons at a time, both vaxxed and unvaxxed. We were going with vaccinated persons only in an event.

“In terms of the rest of the world, they are pivoting on the word endemic because they realise it is not going anywhere and they are reopening. But here in TT, we are still taking this approach where we have shut down our sector completely (with) no glimmer of hope.”

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