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Camillo Gonsalves

Minister of Finance, Camillo Gonsalves. (File photo by Lance Neverson/Facebook)

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In 2020, St. Vincent and the Grenadines and the rest of the Caribbean region were wary of allowing tourists to enter because they were bringing COVID-19 into the region.

Now, those same tourists, having been vaccinated against the virus, are wary of coming to the region because of the low vaccination rate, says Minister of Finance, Camillo Gonsalves. 

“We have been able to argue in the past that St. Vincent and the Grenadines is safe in terms of crime, it’s safe in terms of other types of disease, you can walk at night, you can leave your car open and these sorts of things. But we will not be able to argue honestly, currently, that we are safe in terms of COVID and it is going to be a disadvantage until we address it. It is as simple as that,” Gonsalves said on WE FM on Sunday.

Speaking on Issue at Hand, the finance minister spoke of the protocols that Minister of Tourism Carlos James and his team has put in place so that cruise ships would feel comfortable coming to SVG.

“Because the last thing a cruise ship wants — remember all the bad press that cruise ships got at the beginning of COVID, ‘these floating ships full of COVID passengers’ — is to leave port with all their passengers COVID negative and have one of their passengers pick up COVID on a trip and spread it at the buffet table on the cruise ship. They don’t want that.”

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Highlighting the importance of vaccination, the minister spoke of the impact of the pandemic on visitor arrivals to the Eastern Caribbean Currency Union since the COVID-19 pandemic. 

He said that for the first six months of 2019, the OECS received 3 million visitors and made EC$3.5 billion from these visitors.

In 2020, during the same period, it was 1.6 million visitors.

“And this year, for the first six months of the year, we received 164,000 visitors. That is across the whole Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States… You are going for $3.5 billion to less than $1 billion. It is devastating… the impact of COVID in the region.”

Gonsalves said that the more tourism-dependent countries in the region saw economic decline of 20% and 25% in one year.

“Never in the history of these countries’ existence have they shrunk that far that fast and now, as the world begins to reopen, the thing that stands between us and recovery is COVID.

“A few months ago, we were worried, we in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, we in St. Lucia, we in Antigua, we in Grenada, we were worried about welcoming them because they are the ones who had COVID — the foreigner. 

“‘Why are we letting them in?’ ‘We have to lock down.’ ‘We have to keep them out.’ ‘We have to test them.’ ‘We have to quarantine them.’ ‘Lock them away for two weeks’ and all these kinds of things because we were worried about them coming to us. ‘What are they bringing?’ The situation is completely reversed now. 

“They are worried about coming to us because they are coming from countries that are 70 and 80% vaccinated. They are coming from places where they have received two shots and a booster and they are coming to countries now where the vaccination rate is low and the infection rate is high and the uncertainty is great.”

The minister said that if he as a tourist in England and the United States knows that they were in lockdown when the vaccine rate was 20%, “Why would I leave my country where the vaccine rate is 80% and come to a country where the vaccine rate is 20%? 

“So they would begin to differentiate where they go based on how safe that country is.”

He said that countries and hotels will have to be marketing themselves by telling potential visitors that it is safe to visit.

“‘It is safe for you to bring your children here. You will come, you will get a memory, you will get a photograph but you won’t get COVID.’

“That is what we have to tell them. And the fact of the matter is that as of today, St. Vincent and the Grenadines is in one of the worst positions to make that argument because, regionally, we have simply not done as well as our neighbours in getting vaccinated. 

“If you look at the top of the chain you have places like the Cayman Islands, the Turks and Caicos, Anguilla, the BVI, Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados. They have done well in getting people vaccinated. And at the bottom of the chain, you have Haiti, you have Jamaica, you have St. Vincent and the Grenadines,” the finance minister said. 

He said that when people want to take their children on vacation they are going to make an evaluation about how safe the place is.

The finance minister said that because of the vaccination rate, tourists will visit in bubbles, where everyone is vaccinated. 

“… because the tourist is going to be carried in his little vaccinated bubble from the ship to a particular venue, enjoy themselves and be taken back home, they are not going to be encountering the craftsman on the roadside, they’re not going to buy coconut water from a vendor. They’re not going to do any of that because they can’t be sure that people are vaccinated. And we have to, if we are going to have tourism work in this country, we’re going to have to up the vaccination rates because otherwise we are just going to be lagging far behind everybody else.”

He said that other countries that are tourism-dependent such as Antigua, St. Lucia, Grenada, are going to be redoubling and tripling their efforts to make tourism feel comfortable again in their country.

“We are going to be at a significant disadvantage if we can’t say, like they can, that we are approaching herd immunity, that all of our tourism workers are vaccinated, that 50, 60, 70, 80% of our population is vaccinated. 

“If we can’t make that argument, we are going to delay the type of recovery that tourism can help us with going forward. And what you’ll notice from those countries, they plummeted when COVID came and they shut down. When they reopen, they will rise back up quickly. We will only rise back up quickly as well after COVID and a volcano if we can get people accounted for. There is simply no other way around that problem.”

He said that while face masks and hand sanitisers are important, the measure that tourists, airlines and cruise ships will look at is the vaccination rate. 

“A year ago, they were the problem, they were bringing COVID. Today, we are the problem. They have addressed their problem by getting vaccinated. We have to do the same. It is just that simple and all the other arguments will melt away when you realise that if you want a tourism economy in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, if you want tourism to play a part in the economy, people have to get vaccinated,” Gonsalves said.

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7 replies on “COVID makes SVG unsafe to tourists; higher vaccination rate needed — Camillo”

  1. Avatar Of Orlando Delex AlexanderOrlando Delex Alexander says:

    Are you sure that that is not the other way around? If the country was locked down from tourist, we would have eliminated all the imported cases of Covid, hence reducing the risk to our country men an women.

    The question lies where you are asking for vincentians as being asked to be vaccinated, but is the tourist coming into the country vaccinated? And if that is not the case and covid is so much a killer disease why do we as a government still allow outside sources to cone into out blessed land and infect us with there infestation?

    My Camillo Gonsalves are you telling me that you are more focused on the economic nature of the country rather that the life and livelihood of our citizens? What is the point of having a minister of health in the country that cannot see beyond their eyelids to know that, you are the one killing and infecting the country and its citizens with your greed and manipulative insensitive gluttony.

    Look at the current crisis in out country. Please take the chance to see how our used to be land of the blessed is destroyed under the dysfunctional politrics. When will the country run by the people, for the people with the people , to the people?

    When will St Vincent and the Grenadines be independent rather than interdependent so that we as a people gravitate to Donald trump ideology and build a wall around St Vincent and put all the corrupt politrical leaders behind it? We are lost as a country, the security system if we have one is like a candle in the wind. The economy is like putting lead in water, the leadership remind me of winking, blinking and nod.

    The citizens of St Vincent and the Grenadines voted for leadership not a dictatorship. So it’s time we rid st Vincent and we Grenadines from ALL outside influences and rebuild our country and economy.

    Finally seeing that you Mr. Greedy Gonsalves, is so focused on the fall of tourism and the economy ask yourself
    1) what do you have as a tourist attraction apart from the pot holes in what was meant to be roads? Tourist enjoy is as it feels like a fun park dropping in and dogging pot holes.
    2) where is the banana industry that Dole stole and left banana farmers lost for hope?
    3) do you remember the arrowroot industry, the sugarcane , the turmeric, oh the diamond dairy milk factory. The juice factory and the slaughter house? Why did you leave all these to diminish and take away jobs from the locals?
    4) Yes we do export, but why do we export our raw materials and import it as goods when we have the potential to manufacture our own products?
    5? The time you took to build a prison to encourage crime, why didn’t you rebuild the hospital and all district clinics so the health system can improve?
    6) you want education for all yet still the schools and colleges are like rats nest. Look at the teachers college, does it looks appealing to you?
    7) building police station that has no trustworthy office to run it, as a matter of fact what’s the sense investing in police station and no darm police transport and ambulance services?

    Lawd if I continue wite ah go dead….. ah go dead.

  2. Avatar Of Cosbert SargeantCosbert Sargeant says:

    So they brought the virus and infect us and then tern around and argue that our infections makes it unsafe for them to come!!

    However, the virus is with us and I’ll encourage those who can be vaccinated to protect yourself and your family by taking the vaccine.

  3. Avatar Of Duke DearmentDuke DeArment says:

    If the vaccine is supposed to work….? It becomes abundantly obvious that the vaccine does not work, so what is the point?
    Covid-19 (when combined with other health problems) kills in overwhelming numbers, the elderly, (except SVG). Seeing that around the world (EXCEPT SVG) so very many people (JUST AS MANY YOUNG, AS OLD) die or are permanently disabled from the vaccine. WHY WOULD A YOUNG HEALTHY PERSON GET VACCINATED, as the statistics worldwide (except SVG, as the government tells us) show, the vaccine provides as much protection as masks- ZERO!

    For some reason I believe someone is feeding us false information.

  4. Too bad we do not have a leader that stands up for the people like in this Youtube video:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uMlcnmS46SA

    Instead we have arrogant fools that understand nothing about science, people’s rights or how an economy works. They only care about their precious tourism revenue and looking like they are so great by spending money we do not have..

  5. Why are we feeding into this BS. The vaccination is supposed to protect those who take it so what’s the need for others to be vaccinated as the visitors have supposedly protected themselves!

    If you vaccinate yourself you should not be so concerned with vaccinating the world around you. This nonsensical push for everyone to take this drug and ignoring natural inoculations from people who have caught the virus is a dangerous long term experiment that the island leaders are forcing on their people.

    We do not want to suppress our natural immunity and become drug dependent of the global drug pushers forcing us to take their drugs for the rest of our lives. In two years time will they be giving this drug freely to all of our people? Wake up ministers!

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