[UPDATED] Beaches ordered closed, public gatherings reduced to five

A lifeguard signals swimmers to come closer to shore at Maracas Bay over the Easter weekend. - Photo by Roger Jacob
A lifeguard signals swimmers to come closer to shore at Maracas Bay over the Easter weekend. - Photo by Roger Jacob

LESS than six months after beaches were reopened in a relaxation of covid19 public health restrictions, Government has had no choice but to close them again, plus institute other measures, in response to the recent alarming rise in new covid19 infections.

In announcing new restrictions at a press conference on Wednesday, Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh said the high number of new infections just cannot be ignored and swift action has to be taken.

The last time the country recorded 70 new cases in a 24-hour span was on September 19. But on Tuesday, 70 new cases were recorded and on Wednesday, there were 85 new cases, plus two deaths.

For the next three weeks, all beaches will be closed and there will no longer be in-house dining at any restaurant, bar, casino or cinema. In addition, only groups of five people will now be able to gather in public (down from ten previously), and while worship in public spaces remains permissible, attendance must be 50 per cent or less than the normal, and worshippers must wear masks and be properly physically distanced from each other.

All of these restrictions came into legal effect from midnight on Wednesday.

Beaches were reopened on October 26 and in-house dining was allowed once more on November 9, after weeks of being closed.

Deyalsingh said the ministry is trying to reduce instances of people being in places where they can take off their masks.

He said too many had “let their guards down collectively” when it came to public health regulations.

To date, 11,686 people have been vaccinated against the virus.

Between Tuesday night and 4 pm on Wednesday, there were 85 new cases.

“These figures cannot be ignored,” Deyalsingh said. “We also pay attention to our hospital occupancy rates. One month ago there was two to three per cent occupancy...one month later and we are at 25 per cent.”

He said the ministry is expecting a “post-Easter surge,” adding, “That will not be good for TT and for those who depend on us for healthcare to save their lives.”

After the Easter weekend, it was announced that 50,000 people had moved between the two islands over the holiday period.

If nothing is done to address this continuing increase, Deyalsingh said, it would only lead to further surges in infections.

But he added, “We are so lucky in TT as opposed to other countries, near and far, where we have not imposed states of emergencies, we have not imposed curfews, we have not suspended your constitutional rights, our economy is fairly open – yes, some sectors are affected.”

Deyalsingh said that from Saturday, phase two of the vaccination process will begin. It will see essential workers such as parliamentarians and their spouses, senior public officers, local government personnel, police, prisons, immigration and fire officers, the Coast Guard and the Defence Force, staff of the Ministry of Finance and frontline customs officers being given the AstraZeneca vaccine.

Previously, the only people being vaccinated were frontline medical workers, those 60 years and older with non-communicable diseases (NCD) who attend public health clinics, and those within that category who don’t attend public clinics.

“What this now means is the Covax shipment we received of 33,600 – you may recall we were going to make decisions as to whether we will use 16,000 or all in phase one.

“We are still on schedule to receive the balance of 77,000 in May from Covax. We are starting to be in a pretty good place as far as vaccine supply is concerned,” Deyalsingh said.

On Tuesday, TT received 40,000 Covishield vaccines from India which expire on July 18. Deyalsingh said that over the past two days, around 1,800 people a day have been vaccinated – 800 more than the target.

This story has been adjusted to include additional details. See original post below.

FOR the next three weeks, all beaches will be closed and there will be no in-house dining at restaurants, bars, casinos and cinemas. In addition, only groups of five will now be able to gather in public. These measures will take effect from midnight.

Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh announced this during a virtual press conference on Wednesday morning.

On Tuesday at 4 pm, the Health Ministry said 70 new cases of covid19 had ben reported. There are now 566 active cases.

Deyalsingh said the ministry is trying to reduce instances of people being in places where they can take off their masks.

Leatherback turtle conservationists can still patrol beach facilities, he said.

Comments

"[UPDATED] Beaches ordered closed, public gatherings reduced to five"

More in this section