Visitors may not come if Jamaicans are not vaccinated, says Gassan AzanFriday, July 23, 2021
KINGSTON, Jamaica — Chief Executive Officer of Megamart Wholesale Club, Gassan Azan, is warning that Jamaica, which is heavily dependent on tourism, risks having fewer visitors if a significant portion of the population is not vaccinated against COVID-19.
Azan noted that Prime Minister Andrew Holness, at a recent groundbreaking ceremony, “took two or three minutes out of his speech to beg, urging Jamaicans to take the vaccine”.
Azan, who himself had a serious brush with COVID-19 last year, which he said brought him to death's door, said it was important for Jamaicans to get vaccinated “because that's how the world is going to view you. If your population is not vaccinated, or the bulk of your population is not vaccinated, people are not going to travel to your island. That is what the problem is going to be going forward”.
“No matter how you market Jamaica as a destination that [the level of vaccine take-up by the population] is always going to be a sticking point for persons who want to come. If The Bahamas is more vaccinated than Jamaica they're going to go to The Bahamas because people only go where they feel safe, same thing with crime,” Azan added.
The prominent businessman was speaking with OBSERVER ONLINE earlier this week where he gave an update on his $11 billion Lakes Pen Agri-Ventures orchard farm, which he said has been delayed by at least one year because of the pandemic.
Specifically, the inability of the technicians to travel to Jamaica to set up the greenhouses and Azan's close brush with COVID-19 contributed to the delay.
“The delay has really been on the greenhouse side. With COVID last year, the technicians couldn't come and I also got COVID. I was out for about six months,” said Azan.
“I nearly died! I was in hospital in Miami for two and a half weeks,” he disclosed.
Scientists around the world have said that countries need to build up herd immunity against the virus for normal life to return. For herd immunity to be achieved, 70 per cent or more of a population needs to be inoculated against the disease.
While there have been some breakthrough cases where vaccinated people contract COVID-19, vaccines protect against severe cases and death. Some countries are mulling the introduction of vaccine passports and France is pushing legislation that will force people to be vaccinated or be banned from going to certain places, such as restaurants.
So far, less than 10 per cent of the Jamaican population has been fully vaccinated against the coronavirus at a time when several variants, in particular the delta strain of the virus have been pushing up cases worldwide, including in countries with significantly higher vaccine levels.
With cases trending up locally, the prime minister warned this week that tougher measures could be reimposed ahead of August 10 when they are up for review.
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