The ongoing conflict between T&T and India over COVID-19 vaccines seems to have been put to rest yesterday with a face-to-face meeting between India High Commissioner Arun Kumar Sahu and Foreign Affairs Minister Dr Amery Browne. In a joint statement thereafter, both sides said the discussions were “very candid, friendly and comprehensive.”
It is good that finally, a commitment that the two countries will work “even closer together” on this troubling matter of vaccines has been arrived at.
The genesis of the public spat between two countries that have historically had good relations had its genesis in the Prime Minister’s conversations last Thursday, when he all but accused the High Commissioner of talking to everyone besides the Government about vaccines.
Perhaps now that this has been resolved, the country will see the benefit of the offer of the vaccines made by the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi from which 72 countries have already benefitted.
The uncertainty about the vaccines and their arrival in this country has left the door open for allegations of all sorts. The latest is that relatives of the Health Minister are involved in a company that is importing vaccines from Hong Kong, an allegation the minister has denied.
Trinidad and Tobago leaves itself open to become the laughing stock of the region as we navigate the waters of getting vaccines.
No door should be left unopened in the quest to get vaccines and to ensure that T&T can return to some semblance of normalcy.
The country has been in a state of lockdown and shutdown for far too long. No one is saying we should go back to how things were before COVID but in a real sense, people are suffering and the only way to address this is by ensuring citizens are safe to go about their daily business.
Across the Caribbean, almost every country has already vaccinated thousands of their citizens. Barbados and Dominica were in the enviable position of having enough vaccines to share with their CARICOM counterparts.
However, it seems that common sense is being trumped by gamesmanship and politics in this country’s quest to get vaccines. For example, three weeks ago the country was also told that T&T would benefit from vaccines from the African Union. Where are those vaccines and what is the status of what has been promised?
Now we are hearing about China’s Sinopharm vaccine. One understands that vaccines are now in short supply. Just last week the UK indicated that it had received only half of what it paid for from the Serum Institute of India. But that shortage should not drive us to criticism of those who have the power to help us.
We cannot sit by and hope that this bad dream will go away.
There are options available. If private sector companies have the capacity to help then let them help. But we cannot afford to wait any longer for the vaccines needed to achieve the herd immunity necessary to protect the nation from the COVID menace.