[Opinion column written by the OBA’s Dwayne Robinson]
Bermuda is in a very precarious position in its battle against Covid-19. Our economy is struggling to get its footing and due to the recent surge in cases the CDC has raised our Covid status to level 4. The unfortunate deaths over the Easter weekend, should serve as a wake up call for us that this is a serious virus.
The Government is rightly pushing for “herd immunity” which will provide a strong defense against transmission of Covid, a much-desired relaxation in restrictions, and signal to the world that Bermuda is open for business. To achieve this, we must have over 70% of the population vaccinated. One of the largest hurdles obstructing this goal is vaccine hesitancy.
Many Bermudians are still not sold on the vaccine. Some have extremely valid concerns, and others are being misled by campaigns of misinformation. I applaud the efforts of Dr. Weldon and others in attempting to combat the spread of false information. You cannot change every single mind, but I suggest providing some incentives to encourage more Bermudians who are eligible to get the vaccine. People cannot see the point of getting the vaccine if nothing really changes for them; some need a tangible benefit.
I suggest some small incentives and reprieves that can be negotiated by Government for those who are vaccinated such as:
- Government partnership with restaurants to provide discounts, to encourage more traffic in our restaurants.
- Allowing indoor dining with social distancing and mask protocols.
- Government partnership with hotels to offer discounted staycations to drive more business to the hotels.
- Retail, movie theaters, and gyms should be able to service vaccinated people under the current restrictions while adhering to social distancing and mask protocols.
I understand the vaccine does not grant immunity and those who are vaccinated still should adhere to safety protocols. I am in no way suggesting the vaccine removes all threat of Covid -19. However, allowing vaccinated people small amenities, not only helps the economy, but gives more reason to get it besides duty to the community.
I take note of the Government’s poor financial position, which is why I believe the incentives should be negotiated with the private sector by Government. The Businesses can safely offer indoor services to the vaccinated, and hopefully make a few extra dollars they are currently losing.
The vaccinated would feel they are getting perks for supporting their island and be prompted to circulate money into the local economy. This might also inspire other business sectors who are in better financial positions to offer up incentives as well. There are many other possible incentives that can be negotiated, I implore Government to consider every option.
I am in no way discriminating or trying to shame those who have decided to not take the vaccine. We are all entitled to our choices and what we deem is safest for our families.
However, I believe that herd immunity is the best way for us to navigate out of this health crisis. I hope many more will step forward to receive the vaccine and that these suggestions are taken into consideration. Please consult your Doctor to receive more information about the vaccine, and only trust accredited sources for your information.
– Dwayne Robinson