Saturday, April 20, 2024

Trinidad reopens borders


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Port of Spain – Trinidad and Tobago Saturday reopened its borders after a 16-month closure due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, with authorities reiterating that stringent measures and fines would be applied to people seeking to beat the system put in place to curb the spread of the virus.

Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley, speaking at the weekly news conference, said that he had received reports that on the very first flight to have arrived here, some passengers were seeking to beat the system.

“This is a huge step we are taking, but we are taking it knowing that we are still under threat but we are also operating with significant cautions and you were told before what are the conditions for entry.

“Unfortunately I can tell you that in the first shipment of people into the country, the very first one, we had an instance of people not wanting to cooperate with restrictions. I want to make it clear again that we are not giving any passes to people who believe that they are smarter than the rest of us,” Rowley said.

He told reporters he would not elaborate on the incident on the first flight that had arrived here from Guyana, “because it might become a legal matter for some individuals”.

“There are some people who believe all of us are stupid. We have regulations and rules and we are going to enforce them rigorously to protect the population of Trinidad and Tobago,” Rowley said, adding that decisions made here for the protection of the population “are not open for second guessing by others”.

The authorities, prior to the reopening of the airport, had outlined a series of measures, including the need for a PCR test prior to arriving here and warned that unvaccinated non-nationals would not be allowed into the country.

In addition, the Parliament approved of fines in excess of TT$300 000 for people who contravene the measures on arrival here.

Rowley said, notwithstanding the situation on Saturday at the airport: “I expect that it will go smoothly and that would include law enforcement as well.”

Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office, Stuart Young, told reporters that so far only the state-owned Caribbean Airlines (CAL) has regular scheduled flights operating from the Piarco International Airport and that the other airlines would soon be making their schedules available.

“We know a commercial flight came in from Guyana this morning, we got the system up and running,” he said, reminding potential passengers that they needed to apply for certification.

‘So far the system has shown it is a very robust system with hundreds of people applying,” Young said.

He explained: “You can only get that certification 72 hours before entering Trinidad and Tobago.”

‘You have to upload whether you are vaccinated, you have to upload that negative PCR test,” he said.

Rowley also announced that as of Monday, another aspect of the reopening of the economy will take place with food establishments being allowed to conduct businesses, but only on a takeout and drive through basis.

But he warned the public to adhere to the protocols, including wearing masks, social distancing and washing hands frequently.

He said based on the success of the measures beginning on Monday, the government would be looking at further openings to take effect by the end of the month.

The government is hoping that with its ramped up national vaccination programme, by mid-August, the economy should be well on the way to being fully reopened and with the authorities being able to announce plans for the reopening of schools.

Rowley said that he is also hoping that discussions with the United States on the gift of vaccines as promised would bear fruit soon and that Port of Spain is anticipating that Washington would be providing the Pfzer vaccine, which has been approved by the World Health Organisation (WHO) for children 12 years and over.

He said if those vaccines become available, they will be used only for children of high school age so as to ensure that segment of the population is also vaccinated against the virus that has so far killed 982 people and infected 35 679 others.

“We took a long time to get here and I am keeping my fingers crossed,” Rowley said with respect to the donations by the United States. (CMC)


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