Tobago Business Chamber questions rationale behind Carnival safe zones

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Tobago Business Chamber chairman Martin George.

The Tobago Business Chamber has questioned the Government’s rationale for sanctioning Carnival safe-zone events in light of the “record numbers of covid19 cases” and the apparent lack of interest among bandleaders, promoters and performers.

On Wednesday, after months of consultation with stakeholders, the Government gave the go-ahead for strictly concert-type events.

The Ministry of Culture, Tourism and the Arts said these include soca and calypso concerts, calypso tents, soca, calypso and extempo and chutney competitions, steelband concerts, Carnival king and queen shows and Carnival theatre.

The ministry made it clear that no fetes/parties will be permitted, owing to the increased spread of covid19.

On Thursday, the TT Promoters Association spoke out about the initiative, saying the so-called Taste of Carnival would have absolutely no effect on its industry.

The association said as far as it is concerned the events sector remains closed, as it has been since the onset of the pandemic two year ago. Some stakeholders also complained about the short time frame – six weeks – to prepare for events.

In a WhatsApp voice note on Friday, Tobago Business Chamber chairman Martin George noted the concerns of stakeholders.

“Given the pushback from the major bandleaders, promoters and the persons who are most concerned with running Carnival events, they have indicated that there is not enough time to really make this a feasible venture in terms of the Carnival safe-zone initiative, which has been announced by the Government.”

From the Tobago Business Chamber’s perspective, he said, this reflected the reality more than the Government’s idea, “because the persons on the ground, the persons involved in the business of Carnival, would be the ones best suited to know if this appears practical or not, and from what we have seen clearly they are not in favour of it.”

He added, “So even from a Tobago perspective, you could imagine that it is going to be even more challenging, because even in the best of times, the Tobago Carnival product has paled in comparison to what is in Trinidad. So one wonders if it really is a worthwhile venture at this stage in terms of trying to still press ahead with Carnival safe-zone events.”

George said this is exacerbated by the rising covid19 cases, recalling that there was a record number of new cases – 1.063 – on Thursday.

“Dr (Avery) Hinds (epidemiologist) had predicted that we would indeed cross 1,000 and we have done so. So it is a sobering moment and a sobering reality and one wonders if this Carnival safezone initiative was really the best-thought-out idea at this time, especially with the rising numbers and the deaths still averaging at least 15 per day.”

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