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UNC MP Roodal Moonilal

This country’s vaccine process is taking off last in the Caribbean and at the rate of 1,000 to be administered daily, T&T may only achieve the necessary herd immunity and vaccinate the majority of people by 2025, said UNC MP Roodal Moonilal.

Moonilal spoke yesterday after Government received its first tranche of 33,600 vaccines on Tuesday. The vaccines arrived after a four-hour flight from Miami.

Moonilal said, “I’m pleased that after a very lengthy wait and the fact that we’re taking off last in the Caribbean, there are now a few doses available. But at the rate, we’re going the private sector needs to get involved as we can’t depend on Government to inoculate 70 per cent of the population needed for herd immunity.”

UNC’s Dr Rai Ragbir agreed the number of vaccinations daily should be increased. He noted Barbados did 2,000 to 4,000 daily.

Moonilal added, “Luckily we still have the 40,000 doses expected from India’s Government, but we might have to beg fraternal governments for others which will be needed to cover all in T&T. And Government hasn’t even begun to think of what will apply for the three new mutated viruses.”

Moonilal was critical of the Prime Minister’s recent remarks about visiting Penal, described as a COVID “hotspot.”

Moonilal added, “This is a tiny island. In a pandemic, an entire island is a hotspot especially when you‘re warning an entire country all the time to social distance and wear masks. If there are people in Penal with COVID, they could have gotten it in Point Fortin or POS.”

“From Day One, they’ve never told us of the location of COVID cases, but all of a sudden now, Penal is a hotspot? How credible is this, minus location information before?”

“We’ve always said the illegal migrant population is existing without information and supervision of health needs. It’s a crisis we face in South. We don’t know to what extent this hidden migrant sector is playing a role in the COVID situation.”

Moonilal said the foreign relations aspect is also an issue.

“The cold war brewing between the US and T&T suggests foreign direct investment and infrastructure will be waning which could have consequences for T&T’s COVID fight.”

“Another aspect concerns T&T’s representation in India and China from whom this country has sought vaccines. T&T’s High Commissioners to those countries aren’t well known. Yet they’re representing T&T to 40 per cent of humankind. They should have played a proactive role in securing vaccines – India’s High Commissioner to T&T has emerged as a Caribbean star.”

“This is all a collapse of foreign policy. You can’t blame the present Foreign Affairs Minister since this is the legacy of former Foreign Affairs Minister Dennis Moses, whose incompetence with T&T’s profile is well known.”

What’s the procedure with China vaccines?

Meanwhile, the UNC’s Rodney Charles is calling on Government to advise whether T&T’s Ambassador to China is at post in Beijing to deal with the critical issues of sourcing vaccines and ensuring value for money from T&T’s growing Chinese loans/debt.

“Why is our Ambassador not in Beijing to be on top of every aspect of this important bilateral relationship?”

“If anyone needs recalling it should have been our Ambassador to India who dropped the ball significantly, resulting in us being last in CARICOM’s line for vaccines from New Delhi. Instead, they blamed the Indian High Commissioner, whose primary job is to protect India’s interest in T&T, not ours.”

Charles added, “Our disastrous Foreign Affairs Ministry’s performance was on full display two days ago when Dr Rowley, as CARICOM chairman, was diplomatically snubbed, not for the first time, by being left out of a major hemispheric summit. Instead, Antigua and Jamaica’s leaders were invited as CARICOM representatives to a leaders’ summit at the White House next month.”

Demanding a review of T&T’s foreign policy, he added, “Clearly T&T’s paying the price diplomatically for an incoherent foreign policy and Dr Rowley’s fulsome, ill-advised embrace of Nicolas Maduro.”