by Curlan Campbell
- Unvaccinated vendors barred from accessing their booths Tuesday, 23 November
- 35 out of 39 licenced vendors are fully vaccinated
- On behalf of unvaccinated vendors, Earl J Maitland, wrote to Minister of Tourism and Grenada Tourism Authority
Unvaccinated vendors are still in disbelief over being barred from accessing their booths at the Grand Anse Craft and Spice Market on Tuesday, 23 November 2021, by members of the Royal Grenada Police Force (RGPF) in what has been described as a “heavy-handed, unconstitutional and inhumane” decision by the Grenada Tourism Authority (GTA).
Chairman of the GTA Barry Collymore said they are seeking to find an amicable solution to this matter, however their hands are tied. The GTA must uphold their end of the agreement by ensuring that all destinations within the guided tour bubble are in adherence to the Covid-19 health protocols set out by the cruise industry and that all vendors, taxi and tour operators are fully vaccinated. “Our summer (cruise ship) season got cancelled because the cruise ships thought we didn’t have a high enough vaccination percentage. We have made a compromise with them to say that we will do fully vaccinated tours and have fully vaccinated transport and we will create tour bubbles… the bubble is a compromised position while still having the Grand Anse Market open.”
At present, 35 out of 39 licenced vendors at the Grand Anse Craft and Spice Market, are fully vaccinated based upon the number given by the GTA.
Recently vendors had to contend with not being included in the cruise ship guided tour bubble. Passengers who arrived onboard the first cruise ship for the 2021/2022 season on Tuesday, 9 November 2021 could not visit Grand Anse beach or the Grand Anse Vendors Market in keeping with the Covid-19 health protocols. The same happened on Friday, 12 November 2021 when Grenada welcomed both the MV Britannia and Seabourn Odyssey to its shores.
Now vendors are being told that they must be vaccinated in order to enter the Grand Anse Craft and Spice Market which is not going down well with the unvaccinated vendors.
Prevented from accessing their booths, 2 of the affected vendors, Sharmaine Ragbasingh and Jacqueline Lucas, appeared a live-streamed social media programme called The Pursuit of Justice on Tuesday where they related concerns over being locked out.
Both recounted their encounter with police who threatened the vendors with arrest if they attempted to enter the market. “I can’t even go inside there because I will be arrested…so what am I licenced for, I am licenced to stay out, I am licenced not to make a dollar so how can I pay my bills because I am not getting a salary…today I am out of a business because I am not vaccinated,” said Lucas, a vendor for over 20 years.
Ragbasingh said: “Knowing that a Grenadian, a small businesswoman trying to make a livelihood for yourself and your family and the Minister for Tourism after speaking to us and saying we are going to come agreement, stab us in our soul.”
Collymore said the authority understands the plight of the affected vendors but must weigh the needs of all of the vendors including those vendors who are vaccinated. “The majority of our tourism vendors by far are vaccinated. We may have 3 or 4 who are not vaccinated, at the moment we don’t have a solution but we are actively trying to see what we can do. But we can’t keep everything closed because a few don’t want to get vaccinated. What about the other vendors who are vaccinated and are ready to do business.”
In defence of the unvaccinated vendors, Earl J Maitland, has written to both the Minister of Tourism Dr Clarice Modeste-Curwen and the Grenada Tourism Authority. He provided a copy of the email, which contained recommendations that can be implemented to ensure that both vaccinated and unvaccinated vendors can operate. The recommendation given was to establish a colour code ID that will show the vaccination status of vendors and specify a maximum number of people allowed to enter the Grand Anse Craft and Spice Market to maintain the 6-foot distancing.
Maitland has not had feedback on his recommendation. He did not get a satisfactory response from the GTA nor was he able to get feedback from the tourism minister after several calls to both entities.
Maitland expressed his concern for the heavy-handed and illegal approach by the authority to have the police preventing vendors from earning a livelihood. “To directly challenge the wishes which are protected by the constitution of the unvaccinated vendors especially in these unprecedented times, it says a lot about the moral standing of these people and the amount of deceitful tactics they will use to suppress and oppress the people of Grenada.”
Collymore was asked for an alternative arrangement for the unvaccinated vendors. In response, he stated the GTA is prepared to bear the cost to ensure that unvaccinated vendors can consult with their physicians in order to provide a medical certificate that will give reasons they cannot be vaccinated. This, he said, can then be presented during the negotiating process with the cruise lines in pursuit of a resolution, but without it, there can be no negotiating with cruise lines.
Vendor representative at the Grand Anse Craft and Spice Market Ralph Thomas, said while his heart goes out to the unvaccinated, it is not fair to put all of the vendors’ livelihoods at risk. At present, he said 95% of vendors are fully vaccinated and he urges other vendors to become vaccinated. He also said that vendors are not allowed to vend during cruise ship arrival days but can vend outside of that cruise ship season.
When asked about the Maitland representation of the unvaccinated, Thomas said Maitland’s involvement has brought a wedge between the vaccinated and unvaccinated. As a representative of all vendors at the market it is upon him to restore order since there has been a vacuum of organised leadership and structure among the vendors for some time.
He said that going forward he envisions the formation of an organisation, whose leadership will be appointed by all vendors that will be tasked to standards and policies that will govern the operation at the market. “Every person whether vaccinated or unvaccinated will be allowed to be a member, be allowed to vote to select a leader so when issues of that nature arises we can deal with it in one voice, but as it is now we cannot, because we are not organised.”
Thomas said once the new organisation is formed, he is willing to lead if elected to do so.