Trinidad Gov’t Tells Non-essential Workers to Stay Home, But Insists There’s No Lockdown or State of Emergency

Dr Keith Rowley

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, Mar 26, CMC – The Trinidad and Tobago government Thursday announced that all non-essential workers would have to remain at home from Sunday insisting that the measure should not be viewed as a total lockdown of the country or the introduction of a state of emergency (SOE) to deal with the impact of the coronavirus.

Prime Minister Dr. Keith Rowley, speaking at the end of the weekly Cabinet meeting, told reporters that the new measures would remain in effect until April 15.

“We have not declared a state of emergency or any lockdown…what I have announced is an upgrade of the stay at home. We had a stay at home before, which said if you are sick stay away. We have gone further now, we are saying now if you are deemed to be not part of the essential operations of the country as of Sunday night you stay at home”.

Rowley said those are now required to stay at home “should come out only for essential activity such as going to the pharmacy and supermarkets to buy groceries.

“We are increasing our separation, we are asking people to stay at home under the existing legal arrangements. It is not a state of emergency…there are laws and regulations in place now that can cause our security services to enforce no gathering and to enforce a kind of separation that we are asking for.”

Rowley said the country will be told on Friday “what we regard as essential and the entities and this arrangement I am now announcing goes until the 15th of April.

“Initially we had spoken about schools in the context of the 20th of April, this stay at home from Sunday night,” he said, adding that the authorities will hopefully be in a position to assess “how it is working to be able to adjust as we may have to adjust…”
he warned nationals that the new measures “are no joke,” adding “those people in the country who believe it is a joke, this is about life and death and your foolishness will not be tolerated.

“Your responsibility is required,” he said, noting that the country has witnessed the cost of the “limited action” taken so far “and the further action that we are going to take will have similar kinds of consequences in terms of inconvenience and costs.

“Don’t forget we don’t know how long this thing is going to last. We have to factor that into it as well and we are doing the best we can with what we know and what we have. But the virus demands that we do more”.

He warned citizens who would seek to ignore the new measures that “the police will enforce the law with full support of the (Trinidad and Tobago) Defence Force.

‘We are telling you that today, it comes into effect on Sunday night, there is no need to over rush, we know you will move to make arrangements because you know what is coming,’ Rowley said, announcing that the government will be pumping an additional TT$137 million knot the health sector to cope with the demands of the virus.

During the news conference, Rowley, flanked by several of his ministers, said that his administration would continue to rely on the science in taking decisions and reiterated that the island’s borders would remain close.

“The closing of our border is the last of how we could save ourselves from the rest of an infected world,” Rowley said, noting that the number of infections is growing quickly in some of the neighbouring islands “that the closing of the border is a tool available to us, the objecting being that we are shutting ourselves off from the rest of the world”,.

He again defended the decision of his administration not to allow 33 stranded Trinidadians in Barbados to enter the island and criticised opposition legislators for seeking to make political mileage of the situation.

Rowley said he was disappointed that opposition Leader Kamla Persad Bissessar had decided to make public the death of the 77 year-old man from the coronavirus, even before his family had been made aware of the situation “in order to score cheap political points”.