Chief Secretary: Tobago needs ‘bumper’ Easter

Tobago


Visitors board a glass-bottom boat ahead of a tour to the Buccoo Reef last Easter weekend. FILE PHOTO –

Chief Secretary Farley Augustine said Tobago’s struggling economy needs a bumper Easter season to offset some of the losses in the past two years of the pandemic. Augustine was speaking on Monday as he responded to the announcement by the Prime Minister that the majority of covid19 restrictions, including safe zones, will be removed from April 4.

On Saturday, Dr Rowley said the decline in covid19 infections, hospitalisations and deaths made it possible to open all sectors of the country. He noted that with over 700,000 people in TT fully vaccinated and almost 300,000 acquiring natural immunity after becoming infected, the majority of the population has some level of protection against the virus.

At a naming ceremony for the new Castara Fishing Facility on Monday, Augustine said he fully supported the reopening of the country. “We have no choice at this point,” he said.

“The country’s economy has to be reopened. If I had my way I would have removed the restrictions a little before now, but better late than never.”

He said sufficient vaccines were provided for those who wanted, and there are still vaccines of different brands available now.

“In Tobago’s case, we need a bumper season. Beyond the reopening of the economy, what we working on is getting Caribbean Airlines returning to maximum flights in time for the Easter vacation – it’s absolutely necessary.”

Augustine said travellers are being inconvenienced because of the limited flights. All flights to Tobago for the next two weeks until Easter have been sold out. There are also very limited seats available on the seabridge.

“It’s too difficult to get between the both islands. Additional sailings have been put in place from the Port Authority and those sailings have been fully booked. The minimal amount of flights, those are already fully booked. We need Caribbean Airlines to return to normalcy.”

Augustine’s plea for more flights echoes that of the Tobago Hotel and Tourism Association, the Tobago arm of the Chamber of Industry and Commerce and Tobago Business Chamber. There are currently eight flights per day to Tobago, down from almost 20 in the pre-pandemic era.

Although eager to see more visitors on the island for the Easter period, the traditional activities like goat racing – a staple on Easter Tuesday – is unlikely to be a highlight for the third straight year.

Natasha Roach Ford, president of the Buccoo Village Council, said her organisation will not be participating in any goat racing at the Buccoo Integrated Facility. She said the organisation is expected to release a statement soon to ensure there is no mixed messages.

Augustine reminded the public to continue to follow the covid19 safety protocols.

“I wish to remind people to still be cautious and safe because you can still contract the virus, you can still die from it. The mask mandate is still in… Just be safe and I hope all our restaurants and hotels can get back to earning some money because they have lost quite a lot.”

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