Trinidad And Tobago On Track For Phased Re-opening Of Borders In July

(CMC)— Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley Saturday said plans remain on track to have a phased re-opening of the borders by the second week of July as the island is also looking at the possibility of relaxing some of the measures put in place to curb the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

“We are going to be making these adjustments but they are all going to be governed by the level of infection rate,” Rowley told reporters at the weekly news conference involving officials from the Ministries of Health and National Security.

He told reporters that, “we are still on track” for the possible scheduled re-opening of the borders to allow for flights in and out of the Piarco International Airport that has been closed to scheduled traffic since March last year.

“We still expect to be able to do that. CAL (Caribbean Airlines) and the ministries have worked out the arrangements and during the coming week the relevant authorities will tell you what the conditions are and we are preparing to have scheduled air services into Trinidad and Tobago and operate the managed border.

“The open border is not a free for all. It will be a border which will be opened for activities, the most important thing would be there would be scheduled arrangements and persons who are vaccinated as against those who are not vaccinated would be treated as groups of people with different conditions.

“I trust that the conversation I see developing there. I trust that you understand what is happening outside right now, even with very heavily vaccinated populations, we are not out of the woods yet. You would have heard about the Delta variant in the United Kingdom and the United States…so even as we are opening we have to keep our eyes on that,” Rowley told reporters.

Rowley said that the border opening, which coincides with plans to allow construction workers back at their jobs possibly next week as a result of the national vaccination programme, is not linked.

“Remember these will be two flows of population movement in our society so then we are going to be so much exposed, we are going to be exposed to the importation of that Delta virus from North America, where most of our traffic will be, and of course we will be exposed by having so many people out there and hopefully those people there will be largely vaccinated or significantly vaccinated, but more importantly behaving in a responsible way.

“I must tell you I am still amazed at how the average person in this country is still not yet behaving responsible,” Rowley said, noting that as the construction sector re-opens, it will also allow for hardware stores and manufacturers to re-open their businesses.

“We are taking more risks and therefore we expect more cooperation,” he said, noting that the plans are still to have schools re-open for face to face teaching in September “if all goes well”.

He said as the government intends to further, “take the bull by the horns”, it is his intention “if there is no significant reversal of our situation” hopefully it will be the last time that the country will be put under a lockdown on the weekends.

He said the intention is to put back the curfews from 9:00 pm to 5:00 am on the weekend, reversing the 7:00pm to 5:00 am and 10:00 am to 7:00 pm on holidays.

“So we will do that again next weekend and unless something drastically appears we will not do it that way. We will then more than likely go back to the more relaxed curfew arrangement,” Rowley said, adding that the state of emergency (SOE) still remains in effect.

Rowley told reporters that the country “it is not the intention to keep people at home for a long period.

“We did that to be able to blunt the spread of the virus through our population, which could have and would have had devastating consequences.

‘We have suffered a number of loss of lives, one being too many, and of course we moved from quickly from very low levels to extremely high levels, but this is the pandemic of 2021 and we are hoping to get out of it with a minimum loss of lives and of course minimum dislocation.”

Rowley said that the national vaccination programme is proceedings smoothly and that hopefully the 377,000 vaccines that the country has been able to receive should allow for persons to receive jabs until mid-July.

He said the country is scheduled to receive at least 33, 000 doses under the COVAX facility that has again been delayed and that another significant shipment is expected from China.

The government is also seeking to source vaccines from the African union and is looking towards the United States for a share of the vaccines that Washington has promised to give developing countries.

But Rowley said that currently, “I do not expect we will have vaccines…to put Iat health centres and say come at your pleasure,” urging persons to make sure they keep their appointments and take whatever available vaccine that is being administered by the health authorities.

Trinidad and Tobago has registered 713 deaths and 30, 183 positive cases of the virus, since the first case was reported in March last year.