Students and nationals who have been stuck outside T&T since the country closed its borders in March to contain the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic may get an early Christmas gift in the form of an exemption to return home.
Bearing the good news was National Security Minister Stuart Young, as he spoke at Saturday’s press conference at the Diplomatic Centre, St Ann’s, about the measures his ministry intended to take to bring T&T citizens home before the Yuletide season.
From November 15, Young said they will introduce guidelines concerning repatriating people to T&T.
Young said as of November 6, the number of individuals who had applied to enter T&T stood at 13,042, while 7,204 people had been granted exemptions since the borders were closed.
“So that leaves currently 5,838 outstanding applications to enter Trinidad and Tobago.”
He said when he looked at the number of people who had applied to enter T&T at the end of July and the figure was 5,539.
Young said T&T nationals who may have been domiciled outside may have joined the queue to return home.
He said these individuals added to the 13,042 people wanting to enter T&T's borders.
He said these people are “all of our flights that have been leaving T&T since we have been resumed on a weekly basis…on a ten day basis…we have flights going every ten days to Barbados, New York, Miami, Canada and other jurisdictions.
Young said, “...we are now conscious of those persons who…I don’t know how to put it...but jump on those flights to leave and they expect to then immediately turn around when they finish their business outside and join and sometimes demand they jump the queue to get back into Trinidad ahead of those who were stuck outside.”
Young said this was something they have been fighting against.
Young said more flights will be put in place to bring those individuals back home in the coming weeks.
Individuals wanting to return home will be required to have a negative PCR test 72 hours before entry, while the travel exemptions system will remain in place.
Upon entering our shores, the person will be put in state quarantine or state-supervised quarantine facilities for seven days.
“We will test persons who have entered with their negative PCR test on the sixth day of being here. And once you present your second negative on the sixth day when we test you…you will be released and you can go home.”
Young said this repatriation process will depend on the quarantine space available.
“We have agreed to introduce another facility as a state-supervised quarantine facility. We have already started the preparations…had a conversation with them yesterday and the Ministry of Health is on it today. This is the Kapok Hotel.”
The hotel will provide an additional 100 rooms, Young said.
“What I am asking, Prime Minister, is the persons who may be fortunate enough to get into the queue to come home for Christmas…we are going to be asking as many of them as possible to utilise the state-supervised quarantine. In other words, pay for the hotel facilities for your seven days on arrival because it increases the amount of persons we can manage in our quarantine facilities.”
In addition to Kapok, the State has been using Chancellor, Regent Star and Cascadia Hotels as quarantine facilities.