PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, May 30, CMC – Prime Minister Dr. Keith Rowley Saturday announced a further relaxation of the measures put in place to combat the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic insisting nonetheless that the re-opening of the Trinidad and Tobago economy would be guided by science and not politics.
Rowley, speaking at the Ministry of Health’s press briefing on the virus, said that the borders would be re-opened to accommodate more nationals, but that commercial opening of the borders would take place during the last stage of the phased removal of measures likely to be in the month of July.
Rowley also hinted at the possibility of allowing for intra-regional travel in the coming weeks, but added that it would depend on whether their borders had been opened to the outside world.
“We have to think twice about opening our borders to them, but we certainly are on a trajectory to bring as many of our citizens home in a short of space as possible that is governed by the infrastructure available.
“Because when we bring the cruise ship people in and we bring the students in, they alone would now put us in apposition where most of the capacity that we have being used up even though it is just quarantine,” Rowley said noting that an estimated 275 cruise ship workers and students are scheduled to return home.
He said while Trinidad and Tobago had closed its borders at the start of the pandemic “we want to move a little bit more aggressively to bring categories of people in…but we still have to control that…
‘The biggest threat to us now as a nation in responding to the virus is getting infected by an inflow of people from the outside into this population. While we empathise and we are moved by the stories on the news that is not the basis on which we will make the decisions on the borders.
‘We make the decisions on the borders based on how many people we feel we feel we can safely bring in and sufficiently managing the risk if there is infection by persons coming in or by community spread here that we do have the health infrastructure to cope with the numbers that could flare up,” Rowley said.
He told reporters that as of Monday, the public service would re-open and that workers would be returning to their jobs on a rotation basis.
In addition, the authorities are also allowing for the re-opening of all retail establishments, malls, bookstores, as well as dental, therapy services. Rowley said that social distancing, the need to comply with the hygiene measures, the wearing of masks and gathering of no more than five persons would remain in place. Rowley said that hotels that would accommodate outdoor dining would be allowed to open that facility from Monday and that the National Lotteries Control Board would resume its games on Monday.
He said also that public transport would not be allowed to carry more than 50 per cent of their normal number of passengers and travel between Trinidad and Tobago would resume with the Caribbean Airlines (CAL) providing for more flights on the route. Sailings on the sea bridge would also be increased.
Trinidad and Tobago has not reported any increase in the 116 positive cases and eight deaths as a result of the virus for almost a month, and Rowley said the authorities have also agreed to further delay the opening of barber and hairdressing saloons.
He said he had asked operators of casinos and cinemas to submit proposals indicating the measures they would have to put in place and that churches and places of worship could re-open during the fifth phase that was originally scheduled for July 5, but could be on June 27. – CMC