Dr Roodal Moonilal

Oropouche East MP Dr Roodal Moonilal says the incoming TT Safe Zones for vaccinated people is just a ploy by the Government to force the COVID-19 vaccination on the country.

Moonilal told Guardian media that the TT Safe Zones were unworkable and raised several issues with its proposed operation. He said the Government was simply using its implementation as a distraction from its failure to deal with the Police Service Commission and its objective to get rid of acting Commissioner of Police Gary Griffith.

On Thursday, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley announced that from October 11, fully vaccinated people, age 12 and over, can patronise cinemas, theatres, casinos, bars and gyms. They will also be allowed to dine at eateries operating with a 50 per cent customer capacity.

However, Minister in the Office of the Prime Minister Stuart Young said business owners must ensure all employees are vaccinated, and patrons are to walk with proof of vaccination.

Earlier this month, the Technical Director of the Epidemiology Division at the Ministry of Health, Dr Avery Hinds, explained that a safe zone facilitates the movement of people who have a lower risk of being infected or infectious for leisure-type activities. Hinds said it was like creating an artificial pocket of herd immunity by having all the people in a particular space vaccinated while they interact.

Some sectors of society have criticised the move, calling it discriminatory.

However, the Government has support from vaccinated people and the parts of the business community which has struggled throughout the pandemic.

Despite the Government keeping COVID-19 vaccination as an option to the public, Moonilal said establishing safe zones is a form of mandatory vaccination.

He also argued that T&T does not have the legal and regulatory framework to establish safe zones.

“Through a Mickey Mouse way, they are trying to introduce mandatory vaccination, without introducing mandatory vaccination. So they are saying that you are free to go about. You cannot be mandated to take a vaccine, but if you do not take vaccines, you have to dig a hole and live in the hole. You cannot go to a restaurant, you cannot go to a bar, casino and gym, you cannot go anywhere,” Moonilal said.

When the initiative was announced last week, Young said the Government was drafting legislation and the Police Service (TTPS) and public health officers would enforce it.

However, Moonilal said the TTPS has a low vaccination rate, where about four of every 10 officers are vaccinated.

He said that an on-duty police officer who enters a safe zone must also be vaccinated, or should not get onto the compound.

He said this should also apply to public health inspectors, where departments also have low vaccination rates.

“Or are you saying they will be exempted in law from taking a vaccine because they are an enforcement officer? That is some of the madness that this safe zone is suggesting.”

Moonilal said safe zones also ask people to walk around with a “big” vaccination card to access services. He said some people already found it difficult to move around with their identification cards.

France has used a similar approach, allowing the vaccinated to access leisure services once they can prove their status. It led to widespread protests but the numbers diminish weekly.

Media reports state that since the implementation of France’s vaccine passports, vaccination rates have increased significantly, with health officials declaring that it has saved millions of lives. It has also led to the resumption of school. (KF)