NATIONAL Security Minister Stuart Young said exemptions for the border closure will only be given in the most crucial of circumstances.
He was speaking Monday at a media conference held at the Diplomatic Centre, Port of Spain.
He said since the border closure to all travel (which was announced Saturday and went into force after midnight Sunday) he has received a number of requests from people outside TT asking for exemptions. He stressed that only for crucial reasons exemptions would be given such as having samples come into the country for testing or for medical personnel or other exemptions on a case by case basis.
"The persons who have found themselves outside TT in this unfortunate time, you are seeing what is taking place globally. Globally airports are closing down, ports are closing down, countries are taking decisions to close their borders. The safest thing to do at this stage is to stay put. The most risky places for the contamination by the covid virus are international airports, cruises and resorts according to the medical experts."
Young said that people making requests from all different quarters and in all different modes for exemptions "is not going to work at this stage.
"We are being very strict for the protection of the people who are here in TT and there will be no exemptions."
He added that one exemption could lead to others and that was not being allowed at this stage.
The Prime Minister, however, announced that arrangements were being made for nationals at The University of the West Indies campuses in Barbados and Jamaica who would like to return home to do so. He stressed this was not an opening of closed borders but for the students to return in preparation to "batten down the hatches."
Rowley said his daughter was in "ground zero" in New York and even if she wanted to, she could not come home because the borders were closed. He also reported that he had a niece who came from Jamaica almost 14 days ago and had been in total self-quarantine and a nephew from the US had been in quarantine.
"Both of them scared as to what might happen to their mother who is in the age that is vulnerable to covid19. We have to be responsible. There is no window of exemption because nobody is going to be given a pass because of who you are of where you come from or needs to pull a string. We either have the borders closed or we have it half open. And that is why those exhortations to throw something here for an exemption or to pass some beer through a window, these are all unnecessary. It is either that we do it and get the results that the doctors said we can get and the Minister of Health is asking for or we not going to do it and get the other result. I look at what is happening outside over the last two months and frankly if we reach the stage where all those ventilators are required (announced earlier by Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh) it would mean that we have lost this battle."
Young said that many people were still gathering at the immigration department rushing to renew their passports and to conduct business.
"We don't want people congregating."
He announced that all permanent residence and citizenship interviews had been suspended and the people would be contacted with new dates. He also announced an extension of stay applications until June 22 and also an extension of student permits for the next three months. Visas to foreign nationals will not be issued until the borders reopen (on April 30).
He reported a drop-off system was being considered for passport appointments and possibly having people come in alphabetically.
"Do not flock to immigration office. Right now you can't travel anywhere."
Asked about the 70 nationals stranded in Margarita Young reiterated the borders are closed and reported the Foreign Affairs Ministry has been in contact with the Caracas Embassy who was in touch with the people and seeking to ensure their safety.