Since TT’s borders were closed, the National Security Ministry has granted 4,515 exemptions for people to return home, and there are still over 4,000 applications in the system.
National Security Minister Stuart Young said of those 4,000 application, some of which covered multiple people, 1,000 were from the United States alone.
He said the ministry was working on repatriating nationals from the US, but could not say when exactly this could happen. But he said the US was the “next on the list.” The US has the world's highest covid19 infection rate with three million cases, and more than 130,000 deaths.
At the Ministry of Health virtual update on Saturday, Young said he noticed many new people applying for exemptions months after the border closure. He believed they were from people who had been living and working in the US but recently lost their jobs and wanted to return home.
“Of course the priority will be given to our nationals who applied since the 23rd of March to come forward on a case basis, and those with (special) circumstances.”
In addition, he said soon there would be over 200 people in the parallel health care system, including 79 from Grenada and others from Canada, the UK, Europe, and the Middle East. He said their return was being carefully managed, depending on quarantine facilities and the ability of the health care system. They also had to take into consideration the possibility of a batch of returning nationals testing positive for covid19.
In order to increase the number of people allowed to return, the government introduced state-supervised quarantine, and a hotel near Piarco Airport was recently added to those facilities. He said the hotel had 70 rooms and families with up to five members could stay in one room.
“When we wrote to nationals in Canada and nationals in the UK, Europe and the Middle East overnight, we asked them, please indicate whether they’d be prepared to pay for state-supervised quarantine. And if some people take that up, it means we could expand the number of exemptions of persons coming in from those areas.”
He added that people could request exemptions to leave at firstname.lastname@example.org and they were being granted.
H said they would be asked to provide written acknowledgement that there was no guarantee they would be allowed back into TT at the time they requested, and they would be subject to border control management.
Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh also advised parents leaving the country with their children to buy good health insurance so they could be cared for at a hospital if anything were to happen.
In an update on the 307 people who were quarantined on the Enchantment of the Sea cruise ship and later moved to various state quarantine facilities, Chief Medical Officer Dr Roshan Parasram said the quarantine was going well and no one was ill. TT has 133 confirmed cases, eight deaths and 120 discharged with five people still in hospital.
Parasaram said the Health Ministry set up a monitoring and evaluation committee which was run by the principal medical officer of epidemiology and included county medical officers and the Police Service. He said the committee followed up on them by phone or visited physically.
“Of all the persons contacted thus far, if you recall, they were discharged, the last group, on Thursday afternoon, so the end of the first seven-day quarantine would be on Monday.”
Deyalsingh also addressed the entertainment industry, which remains closed. He said it was a fact that certain industries including bars, restaurants, nightclubs, and party boats “lend themselves to being their own epicentres of new outbreaks.”
He said his ministry was not punishing anyone and he empathised with them, but they had to be careful so the entire country did not shut down again.
“To protect the gains that we have made as a country as we reopen the economy – and the whole economy is being reopened – we have no choice but to pay attention to that potential epicentre that could come from one industry.”