The Trinidad and Tobago government on Saturday hinted at a “cautious reopening” of borders, as it announced a relaxation of several measures put in place to curb the spread of COVID-19 that has infected 5,489 people and killed 105 others in the country.
Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley, speaking at the Ministry of Health news conference, said that a committee – comprising the Attorney general, Faris Al Rawi, Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh and National Security Minister Stuart Young – would be established over the next 24 hours and would examine the ways in which persons would be allowed back into the country given that the borders had been closed since March 23.
Exemptions to nationals
Young told the news conference that since the borders were closed, Trinidad and Tobago had granted 5,905 exemptions to nationals wanting to return home and 8,046 to persons wishing to leave the island.
“I am satisfied that this committee can report within a week and that the tagging system could be available, and it will allow us to maximise home quarantine and that will allow us to maximise the inflow of persons who are outside, citizens of Trinidad and Tobago, who are outside to come home and that will then result in an elimination of this exemption system,” Rowley told reporters.
“I see this as a cautious reopening of our border. We are in deep discussions with some of our CARICOM (Caribbean Community) colleagues. I spoke with the President of Guyana (Dr Irfaan Ali) a few days ago at length, and we believe that we could begin to have more movement between our citizens and the Guyanese population, the Grenada population, the Barbados population because the level at which they are at is either lower than or equal to us, and we can begin sometime not in the too distant future to make more tentative steps with respect to the border opening.”
He said that he hopes these measures will be put in place by November 2.
Rowley said that as of Monday, several new regulations would come into effect as the island relaxes some of the measures put in place to stem the curb the spread of the virus, even as he pleaded with the population to continue to wear masks and engage in social distancing.
He said places of worship would be opened for at least one-hour services, but allowing for only 50 per cent of the congregation at any one time and all public servants would be returning to their jobs.
Persons attending flight schools will also be accommodated once they all adhere to the existing protocols.
In addition, casinos, cinemas and all member clubs will be allowed to operate on a 50 per cent capacity, and Rowley said that under no circumstances would these establishments be allowed to sell or provide food and drinks to patrons because of the fact that they would have to remove their masks to consume those items.
“That is mandatory, if it is not being observed, it will have to be shut down,” he said.
He noted that bars and restaurants would have to wait two more weeks before it is possible for in-house dining to take place.
He said while the coastline would be opened to include beaches, people are still required to wear masks.