The Brazilian variant of the COVID-19 virus must have entered into this country through one of our 200 illegal ports of entry, Opposition Member of Parliament Saddam Hosein has said.
Hosein made the statement yesterday during a press conference held at the Opposition Leader’s Charles Street office in Port-of-Spain.
In a response to a question from Independent Senator Paul Richards, Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh last week told the Upper House of Parliament that this country’s first case of the Brazilian COVID variant was detected in a Venezuelan migrant.
Deyalsingh, however, did not say if the migrant entered the country illegally.
There have so far been 15 people who have tested positive for the Brazilian variant.
“The borders have been closed since March last year. That variant stems from South America. Then how did it come here? It must have entered through some illegal port of entry,” Hosein said.
“It will be a low risk for persons who return through the legal means of entry because of all of the stringent examinations and requirements they will have to meet that there will be a low risk of any infection at all but when they come through the illegal borders without any test, without any quarantine that is how the virus has reached to our shores,” he said.
“If our borders have been closed for 13 months how is it that the P1 variant has gotten into Trinidad and Tobago. How?” Hosein said.
Hosein said the porous borders are putting the country at risk.
“It is a total collapse. This government is putting the lives of our citizens at risk, putting the businesses at risk, putting our economy on the verge of collapse because of its incompetence to properly manage the borders of Trinidad and Tobago,” he said.
Hosein said a response to a Freedom of Information request received last week stated that a total of 21,001 people applied to the Ministry of National Security requesting an exemption to enter the country between March 22, 2020 to February 9, 2021.
Six out of every ten of those applicants were allowed to enter the country.
A total of 12,509 were granted an exemption during the period.
“Persons whose applications are pending are those persons who applied and are finalising their travel arrangement. As at February 9, 2021 the number of such applicants was 9,427,” it stated.
“No national or resident application was rejected. All entries are managed based on available resources,” the letter from the Ministry of National Security stated.
In addition to the issues with the Coast Guard manning the borders, Hosein said the country has had no helicopter coverage for at least a week as the contracts for pilots and tactical flying officers have not been renewed as yet.
Hosein described the situation as “totally disturbing.”
“We are now faced with a government that has caused our coast guard to not sail and our air guard to not fly,” Hosein said.
“We now have a ministry of national insecurity,” he said.