(CMC) — The Trinidad and Tobago government Thursday announced stricter measures to curb the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) after the country recorded 328 new cases of the virus in a 24-hour period.
Late Wednesday, the Ministry of Health reported that 223 new COVID-19 cases — from samples taken between April 25 and 27 — have pushed the overall total past 10,000.
The country has now recorded 10,170 COVID-19 cases since the first reported infection in March 2020. From these, 8,351 patients have recovered. The death toll has also increased to 163 after the Ministry of Health recorded two new deaths on Wednesday. There are now 1,656 active cases.
“The numbers we are seeing now are slightly ahead of the projected numbers that we would have made in some quarters and in some other quarters we would see the curve not going in the direction we would like it to go.
“But taking the raw number 328, as against 250, as against 180 and as against 15 you don’t have to be an Einstein to understand what we dealing with,” Rowley said, reminding the country that Trinidad and Tobago and the rest of the world is dealing with a pandemic.
“Difficult as it is, it is the best option open to us,” Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley, who has just recovered from the virus, told a news conference. He said the new measures would go into effect from midnight and last until May 23.
He said that all restaurants, bars, malls, places of worship, gyms, fitness centres as well as spas, hairdressing and beauty places, casinos, cinemas, theatres and clubs, will be closed.
In addition, the public service will operate on essential services. Rowley said that in the case of Tobago, there will be a cut in the number of flights to the island, as well as a reduction in the number of passengers utilising the sea bridge. All tours to areas of recreation will also be curtailed in both islands.
The government also announced that the police would now be able to enter private homes and end activities that contrive the existing health protocols.
“Some of the people who we think should lead this country at their locations, their homes and their communities because they are in a position to lead…they have been the ones who have been putting themselves about the regulations (and are saying the measures) don’t apply to me, it does not apply in my neighbour…
“I could organise a party because the police cannot come in here and the police cannot tell me what to do. Yes, the police will be able to tell you what to do home. You see before we took the position that we would not overly intrude on the individual freedoms even as we fight the virus.
“But if in so doing persons are using that to misbehave and create situations that threaten the rest of the country, then I want to let the country know that the existing laws and regulations of Trinidad and Tobago. I have been properly advised by lawyers who have been properly trained, and the advice that I have is that the existing laws in the public health and the regulations that flow from there allow the police to intervene in private spaces if the police are of the opinion that what is going on in that private space is detrimental to the public interest,” Rowley said.
He told reporters that the figures have shown that with all the cautions being thrown to the wind “the only thing we can do now in Trinidad and Tobago to evade a disaster brought on by COVID-19 in its second year is to intervene and to interrupt the distribution of the virus among the population”.
Rowley said that the introduction of the vaccine here had also contributed to persons engaged in a relaxation of the various protocols, such as wearing masks, social distancing and washing hands.
“We still have a lot of people who believe COVID is a hoax,” he said, adding that behaviours at home also contributed to the spread of the virus.
Rowley said recently the United States had indicated it would be making approximately 60 million doses of the virus available to other countries and Trinidad and Tobago was hoping to be among those benefiting from the gesture.
“This morning the news was that something happened in the United States, Baltimore where the production of AstraZeneca was being done. And when the statements were being made that the American government is trying to ensure the safety of the vaccine that would become available for distribution…the initial thought is that it had to do with the expiration date.
“What we discovered today that is not the problem at all,” he said, noting that there had been some contamination at the factory where the vaccine was being produced.
He said “confirmation is still to come, but the availability of vaccines from that area is “unacceptable, until further notice”.
“I don’t know what the outcome of that will be but that’s today’s report,” he added.
Rowley said that the quantity of vaccines now on the island, which would have ensured that persons would have received a second “jab” will now be used to give a first “jab” to people.
“So, if we do not get for whatever reason, on time… we would have vaccinated one dose per person upwards of 80,000 people. If on the other hand things go as we are expecting to go in the context of the shipping order that we have in hand, then we should get another batch in time to begin to do the second dose on the first set of people we vaccinated, and then we will be back on schedule.”
During the news conference, Rowley said he was “happy to be out and about” after his battle with the virus, adding “I must say I have been one of the lucky ones”.
“I do consider myself lucky,” he said.