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DOMA President Gregory Aboud.

The Downtown Owners and Merchants Association (DOMA) has endorsed the call by Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley and Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh for retail sector workers to get vaccinated ahead of a possible reopening within the coming weeks.

DOMA president Gregory Aboud said, “Everyone who is urging the vaccination to us, is speaking about fact-based information and we recognise that a lot of personal care and attention has to be given one-on-one to each individual person to convince them to take the vaccine which is what we have been trying to do in our own company.”

“But we also recognise that while it may be true that the Prime Minister and the Minister of Health and others do not want to panic the population, that there is a growing fear…and the great worry that the Delta variant is going to wreck T&T.”

Claiming there is a lot of evidence that persons living in, and travelling to Miami and New York right now, are being exposed to that particular viral strain, Aboud said, “It is possible that that variant which is not as deadly as the original COVID but which is far more contagious, could end up causing a third wave in T&T which could shut our country down until Christmas.”

Seeking to drive home this sobering reality, he added, “That is a very scary prospect for anybody who is concerned about the well-being of our citizens, especially the elderly and those who are afflicted with other types of illnesses which are so prevalent, namely hypertension and diabetes.”

Aboud warned, “This is no longer a joking matter. This is a very serious life or death matter.”

Pointing to data out of the US and the UK which showed that vaccinated persons are not going to the hospital even though they contract this strain, Aboud said, “The unvaccinated represent more than 99 per cent of hospitalisations.”

Examining how governments around the world were now being forced to enact legislation necessitating that COVID-19 vaccination becomes mandatory—as is the case with Polio and Yellow Fever—he continued, “Already we know that in Barbados and St Lucia, many people who are booking their holidays to come to those islands in August and as far down as December, are asking the hoteliers if the staff are vaccinated.”

He said foreign visitors in Barbados booking boat cruises and restaurant reservations are asking if staff are vaccinated also.

Fully vaccinated himself, Aboud said he has suffered no side effects up to now, and right-thinking citizens must also set aside doubts and look at the facts, as well as consider those whom they were placing at risk as they remain unvaccinated.

Confessing he was despondent to hear supposedly intelligent people talking about the negatives of the vaccine, Aboud said more than 90 per cent of business owners, middle managers, and supervisors had already been vaccinated.

Asked where they were seeing a fall-off, the DOMA head said, “It is in other classes of the workforce.”

He said they had observed a “lagging acceptance of the vaccine among that group of the working family.”

To this cadre of persons, he urged them to take example from the supervisory bracket “to liberate the country.”

Pressed to say what would happen if workers continued to refuse to become vaccinated, Aboud said if the current threat “becomes a greater reality than it is now, it is possible that we could end up in a situation where we try to put all the vaccinated staff in one location and all the unvaccinated staff in another location, or where we consider reopening only with vaccinated staff to begin, and there is the option of offering incentives to persons to get vaccinated.”

Holding out hope that persons will see the sense in taking the vaccine, Aboud said it is a possibility, “The business sector will start being a bit more receptive to vaccinated customers by offering them an opportunity to earn discounts, for instance…present your vaccine card and earn a ten per cent discount on any purchase or so on. That might become a reality, I don’t know. All those are options as we try to drive common sense through the landscape and create an environment in which we protect our country and its citizens from the detrimental Delta variant which is lurking just beyond our borders.”