The limit on gatherings due to COVID-19’s arrival in Trinidad and Tobago is now ten people and less and a crackdown’s coming on bars and river liming.
Government is also determining whether bars which continue to open pose a public health threat and could lose their licenses for this breach. Instructions are also being issued to restrict access to Caura and other river lime locations.
Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley announced this on Wednesday as Government sought to reinforce appeals against congregating in a bid to stop the virus’ spread.
Rowley spoke at a media briefing at the Diplomatic Centre, St Ann’s, which followed another special Cabinet meeting, where several ministers announced measures to deal with the fallout from the virus reaching these shores. Teams working on the issue involved finance, banking and insurance, trade and business and social support. Ministers detailed measures to preserve jobs and assist business and low-income earners.
In the last week, seven imported COVID-19 cases were confirmed. The latest cases were two women who flew in from Guadeloupe after a cruise they were on was banned from entering Martinique because of suspected cases on board the vessel. A 26-year-old East Trinidad athlete who recently returned from Europe and a 52-year-old businessman who returned from Switzerland are also among the cases.
Rowley said he was pleased the national community has been paying attention to what’s been said on the issue and most citizens were taking health professionals’ appeals seriously. But he said that wasn’t to say there weren’t people who still believe it’s a joke. He said all of T&T must understand that success or failure in the situation “... might depend on you at the personal level.”
Cabinet yesterday agreed gatherings should be ten people or less, a reduction from 25 initially.
Despite Government’s call for bars to close to prevent virus spread, Rowley said he understood some bars were still opening.
“Who feel they can ignore the guidelines, requests and instructions...people who believe that since they don’t have to go to work or school, the place to be is in a river lime doing exactly what they’ve been asked not to do - congregate,” he said.
“This level of irresponsibility is being noted and will not be allowed to continue unabated because at the end of the day, we do have some heavy ‘hands’ we can bring to bear on such behaviour. So far we’ve been getting the job done without that and I’d like to believe we can continue without it.”
He added, “For those people going to bars and those bars opening and encouraging people to congregate and therefore pose a public health threat to the people, I’ve asked the Attorney General and other relevant officials to determine whether posing of a public health threat also poses a threat to the license of those bars. We’re exploring that now and we’ll not hesitate to take action where action is available.”
For those who have to go to Caura River and elsewhere, he said he’ll ask the relevant minister to ask Local Government bodies to restrict access to the river.
“We’re asking people to do what’s sensible if not only for your behalf but for those to whom you pose a threat,” he said.
“Those who will have a wonderful time at the river lime or by the bar...just remember you could be the person taking the pathogen home to your mother, father or sick child.”
He said the call extended to beach-going since this could provide an opportunity for virus spread. He also warmed against congregating/liming at home.
Rowley said he knows the situation is hard.
“I find myself a lot of times... you know...it’s automatic to shake hands, but that’s a no-no. Sometimes you want to greet someone but you remember, no kissing,” he said.
“We’re not talking about penalising anyone, but people should be aware of not doing things to spread infection ... your infection is my infection.”
Rowley assured students will have their SEA and CSEC examinations later barring unforeseen circumstances. He said SEA may be in May but he wouldn’t say for sure yet since the virus was projected to peak around that time.
He said Government was unsure when the situation would end. Information indicated that over this month and April into May the virus would be at peak but Government’s contingencies are for intervention over that period. But he said other experts feel it could last as long as 18 months.
“I hope that forecast (18 months) isn’t the one we’re dealing with,” the PM said.
Saying T&T was in an unprecedented situation, he added that shutting the country down wasn’t feasible. However, Rowley said T&T was in a much better position than some US areas where people have to stay home for three weeks.