Trinidad & Tobago closes its borders as COVID-19
Compared with the mounting numbers of coronavirus cases in other countries, four patients testing positive for COVID-19 might not seem like a lot, but the government of Trinidad and Tobago is taking no chances.
In a press conference that began just after 11 a.m.
local time on March 16, 2020, Prime Minister Keith Rowley explained his administration’s strategy in dealing with this pandemic:
avoid levels of infection that could overwhelm the health care system.
Calling the current situation one of “crisis” and “emergency” (albeit “temporary”), and making the point that there will be no solutions without inconvenience, the prime minister informed the country about additional mitigation measures that have been put in place.
The most drastic of these — and perhaps the most essential — is the decision to close the country’s borders to everyone but Trinidad and Tobago nationals for 14 days starting from midnight local time on March 17.
Any exceptions to this rule would require authorisation from the Ministry of National Security, and all nationals re-entering the country will also be required to self-quarantine for 14 days.
Additional measures include the immediate closing of all bars and dining-in restaurants, though establishments will still be allowed to provide curbside delivery. Gathering in groups of more than 25 people is strongly discouraged, with the prime minister making the point that people should opt to take responsibility and follow the recommended guidelines, rather than having to be in a situation where measures have to be enforced. “Personal conduct,” he explained, “plays a major part” in the success of the government’s efforts to contain the spread of the illness.
Roman Catholic and Anglican churches in Trinidad and Tobago have discontinued masses for the foreseeable future, and the government is asking other the leadership of other religious denominations to follow their lead and halt religious observances attracting large groups of people. Explaining that the health authorities are trying to create a secure national environment, Rowley lamented, “Why do we have to be beaten over the head to do the common sense thing to save our lives?”
Though all schools will remain closed until April 20, 2020, online learning is encouraged, since, in the prime minister’s words, “We are not stopping our existence, we are responding to a challenge.” The nationwide school closure will naturally affect thousands of students who have been preparing for various examinations, with the most immediate casualty possibly being primary school students who are due to sit the Secondary Entrance Assessment (SEA) exam on April 2.
The government is also seeking ways in which to continue the School Nutrition program which provides vulnerable students up to secondary school level with breakfast and lunch on weekdays. For many children, these school meals are their most substantial, and in some cases, the only ones in the course of a day.