There should be no bad blood on Jamaica’s ban on flights from T&T

DERYCK Murray, Trinidad and Tobago high commissioner to Jamaica, says there should be no bad blood following Jamaica’s ban on flight from the Caribbean island earlier this month.

“We have been long-standing friends and have a great relationship over the years, and also, as part of the Caricom family. Each country has precautions in trying to minimise the spread of COVID [and] each country, each jurisdiction has its own way of dealing with situations and circumstances. Trinidad and Tobago, at the moment, has a total lockdown of borders. It is not limited to flights from any specific country in the Caribbean and/or overseas,” Murray told the Jamaica Observer in an interview.

“That is the situation in Trinidad. It is more stringent than the circumstances in Jamaica. Jamaica has her restrictions and we fully respect those in terms of the way Jamaica is addressing the particular issues as they relate to Jamaica,” added Murray.

Jamaica restricted travel from Trinidad and Tobago following a new spike in COVID-19 cases and the discovery of the worrying Brazilian variant in the neighbouring island. On May 3, Trinidadian Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley disclosed that he was informed by Prime Minister Andrew Holness of the ban.

“[The] prime minister of Jamaica gave me the courtesy of informing me that I think, sometime today, Jamaica would put Trinidad and Tobago on a restriction list of countries from which persons cannot travel, because of our acknowledgement that we had the P1 variant here,” Rowley said, at a press conference in Port-of-Spain.

In December 2020, Jamaica also implemented a travel ban on the United Kingdom over concerns of the UK variant and skyrocketing COVID-19 cases in Europe. However, borders were recently reopened to UK-based travellers.

At the same time, Murray said Trinidad and Tobago has been in communication with the United States with hopes that it and other Caribbean Community (Caricom) members will be beneficiaries of the 60 million doses of AstraZeneca vaccines to be distributed soon.

“Trinidad and Tobago is seeking to source vaccines as quickly and expeditiously as possible, within the umbrella that the vaccine is approved by the World Health Organisation (WHO). We are looking to different sources and the US is certainly one source in the area, where it has been reported that they have a quantity of vaccines in excess of their own needs for their population,” he said.

In April, Minister of Health and Wellness Dr Christopher Tufton said the Jamaican Government was in communication with the US, hoping to get a shipment of the vaccines.

Added Murray: “We hope that they will look kindly on their Caribbean neighbours to share some of those vaccines. We have been in contact with them. At the moment, Trinidad and Tobago is the chair of Caricom and so, it’s also on behalf of Caricom.”

On Monday, Trinidad and Tobago recorded 294 new COVID-19 cases and nine related deaths, while Jamaica recorded 83 new cases and 15 deaths.

“There’s been a similar rise in Trinidad and Tobago as well, so this is a very serious pandemic and we have to make sure that we look as widely as possible for the available vaccines, but also ensuring that they are approved,” said Murray.

So far, almost 62,000 people in Trinidad and Tobago have received the first dose of COVID-19 vaccines, with a little over 1,000 fully vaccinated. Meanwhile, some 135,000 Jamaicans have received their first dose so far. Nearly 7,000 have received their second dose.

Murray said there has also been regular communication between Jamaica and Trinidad.

“Some of these discussions are very sensitive and, therefore, not always in the public domain. But I can assure that we, as is Jamaica, are working assiduously to have the population vaccinated as soon as possible.”

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