Governor of the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank (ECCB), Timothy N.J. Antoine, says he believes vaccination is a key tool in the global arsenal against the COVID-19 pandemic, and he encourages those in the Eastern Caribbean Currency Union (ECCU) who are not yet fully vaccinated to do so in order to help bring the pandemic under control.
“We still have a pandemic that’s raging and, therefore, in pandemic economics, rule number one is to control the pandemic – bring it under control,” Governor Antoine said this week.
As at 01 November 2021, there have been 35,947 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the ECCU, with 32,056 recoveries and 680 deaths. (Source: ECCU Ministries of Health)
Governor Antoine pointed out that unvaccinated people have accounted for 95 per cent of COVID-19 deaths in the ECCU. “It means that many of the lives lost could have been prevented,” he said, while adding: “My heart goes out to people who have lost loved ones. I personally know people who have succumbed, and it’s heartbreaking.”
Governor Antoine continued: “My view is that too many people have died – some of them in their prime; and we are not getting them back. So let us control the pandemic by using the tool at our disposal.”
Across the Currency Union, full vaccination rates range from a high of 61.1 per cent to a low of 16.1 per cent. The average full vaccination rate across the ECCU is 37.2 per cent.
“The longer that we take to get our vaccination levels up, the longer the pandemic lingers, the more the variants play a ‘mas’ – as we would say – which is to kill people, and the harder it is for us to get our businesses, especially our small businesses, back on track,” the ECCB Governor said, adding that, “We have some control over how this [pandemic] ends.”
Governor Antoine went on to commend the proactive action taken by the ECCU governments with respect to their vaccination rollouts, which he characterised as “one of the things that I’m very proud about for this region.”
“We started rollout of those programmes in February of this year, well before many other countries in the CARICOM area, through the proactivity of our governments,” the ECCB Governor said, but he noted that the vaccination rates in the ECCU is “disappointing to say the least.”
The Governor of the ECCB took the opportunity to express profound gratitude for the tireless efforts of doctors, nurses, allied healthcare workers, including laboratory and testing professionals, and other frontline workers, who he said continue to serve in a very selfless way to help the people of the ECCU. “Let’s help them! Let’s do our part. This is a fight that we must win and can win, but we have to do this together,” he said.
In his appeal to the people of the ECCU, Governor Antoine stated that, “I think Pope Francis said let us do it [get vaccinated] as an ‘act of love.’ I agree with the Pope. Let us use the tool as an act of love, first of all for ourselves and, if not for ourselves, our loved ones, our countries and our Currency Union.”
The Governor further stated that the issue of vaccination touches on lives and livelihoods, both of which he said are inextricably linked. “We need Tourism back. In the ECCU, about 80,000 jobs – direct jobs – come from Tourism. There are some people who have not earned anything for 18 months. Let us connect the dots and realise we can take responsibility to help end this pandemic,” he said.
The ECCB Governor added: “Ultimately, you have to make a choice, consult your doctor, consult a trusted person and make the decision to help get our economy and get our region going again. Too many people have died in our Currency Union.”