National Security Minister Stuart Young says over 300 nationals stuck on a ship off Barbados will be allowed to come home if the cruise ship company agrees to quarantine them at sea off Trinidad and Tobago.
Young made the comment yesterday in the wake of the return of six nationals on Saturday night and the expected return of another 53 today from the Disney Fantasy cruise ship.
The six nationals who returned Saturday were taken to the University of the West Indies’ Debe campus for their 14-day quarantine.
Speaking on I95FM on Sunday, however, Young said he has also been in talks with Royal Caribbean’s Vision of the Seas cruise ship, which is currently in Barbados waters with 300-plus nationals on board. But he said he was hoping to negotiate for a different approach to the quarantine process for that vessel, since the Government could not undertake to facilitate such a huge number of returning nationals.
He said once there are no positive cases in the 14-day period, the nationals on board would be allowed to go straight to their homes after leaving the ship.
“What I’m going to try to work out with the cruise ship company is come and anchor in our waters and let us do the quarantine of our cruise ship workers, those 300-plus on the ship, with our public health officials monitoring and doing the necessary medical assessments and examinations, hopefully no positive cases present and you come and you go home,” Young said.
He said he has also been in talks with the principals of the various University of the West Indies campuses to repatriate students there.
“What we have done is asked the principals of the three campuses, because there are various examinations dates and they are different in each campus, so I’ve asked them to work with us and work out the preferable dates for the students,” Young said.
He also assured that the Government would keep its promise to repatriate all T&T nationals desirous of returning home.
Young’s plan comes even as St Augustine MP Prakash Ramadhar has called for a committee to be set up to oversee the repatriation of Trinidadians currently stuck abroad. Ramadhar said now that there were no cases of COVID-19 in the country, the almost 1,000-bed stock no longer in use at the various institutions used to treat previous patients could be used to house the returning nationals.
Meanwhile, a Chaguanas mother is calling on Young to say when her son and other nationals stuck in Caribbean countries will be granted exemptions to come home.
Narisa Mohammed said her family’s Eid celebrations were marred by the absence of her son Ziyad Mohammed.
Ziyad, 27, travelled to Tortola in the British Virgin Islands last year to accept a one-year contract with an accounting agency. That contract came to an end on March 26.
Mohammed said her son had already given up his apartment and sold his car to come home when T&T’s borders were closed on March 22.
“If anyone knows me, I am very family-oriented and I thought Riyad would have been with us to celebrate Eid. I feel an emptiness without him here,” she said yesterday.
She said Riyad was now staying in another apartment and although he is in good health, the uncertainty of when he will be allowed home is taking a toll on him.
“It’s the fear of the unknown, knowing he is alone there. And for me, its a mother’s fear, just hoping that everything would be okay. I just wanted the Minister of National Security to hear the plea of the citizens who want to come home, regardless of the circumstances of all these people, they have a right to come home.”
She said there were only eight COVID-19 cases in Tortola and just like T&T, the island currently has no active cases. She said her family has written to Young on numerous occasions seeking an exemption and had even hired an attorney to write to Young on their behalf.
She said her Eid prayer is that the authorities and the public can find love in their hearts and those nationals stranded abroad can be allowed to come home.