The stay-at-home order in effect in T&T and the closure of this country's borders have been extended to May 15.
The announcement by Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley yon Saturday came five days before the April 30 deadline for the current lockdown was due to end.
The PM will return to the population on May 10 to advise if there are any changes.
Hours after meeting with technical experts from the Ministry of Health during the mid-morning period, Rowley said "We started out on a fairly long journey. We are still on that journey and there's still a long way to go. However, we can report that our travels have not been as painful as it could have been."
Comparing T&T's position to others, he said, "T&T today is in a fairly good place because we have taken certain steps that have paid us dividends with respect to controlling the negative output that could have come to us."
Speaking during a media briefing at the Diplomatic Centre, St Ann's, Rowley said while the local health system had so far weathered the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic, they could not afford to prematurely relax the rigid measures currently in place as it could still prove to be detrimental for the population.
He said, "It is still an emergency situation but we have evaded the health crisis in the physical sense of having patients descending on the hospitals."
Acknowledging the financial and mental pains the lockdown has had on citizens, Rowley said, "Some persons are saying we should open back the economy and allow persons to come out and be themselves, but just remember that the only reason why we can speak today about being in a position that is not calamitous, is because we have done the things that have made it stressful for us."
He warned, "If we did not do those things and if we are not doing those things, we will have a different story."
Indicating there was a resistance to what has so far been done, Rowley said it would have been vastly different if T&T's experience had been, "Multiple coffins heading to the mortuary or cemetery on a regular basis."
He warned, "Let us not take that as a licence to behave as though the threat no longer exists. The virus is alive and well. And as we speak about opening up, let us have the opening up on the same basis as the management has done to date, which is be guided by the scientists, be guided by the data, be guided by the advice to the Government by our public health experts."
He said, "We have done well so far. The question now is how much further can we go in preserving and hopefully, improving our chances of evading calamity. We cannot now relax and do what would get us into trouble."
The PM said based on the approach thus far and the requirements as outlined by the Public Health Department, "We are required to give the technical people a further 14 days to conduct examinations of the population outside of the hospitalisation situation."
Rowley said although the authorities were not seeing increased presentations of the virus or other ailments to doctors around the country, the health officials still needed to get out into the communities and investigate the wider population.
"By the 10th of May, we should be in a position, if things go well, to be able to to say to you we can now relax a lot of what we have now constricted," Rowley said as he advised, "Continue to stay at home, continue with the hygiene and continue with the physical distancing because those things have worked for us."
He added, "We have established May 10 as the time by which we would have seen enough of the sampling of the people from the population so that is our horizon for the moment."
More opening days for hardware stores
As part of the move to ease the restrictions governing the operations of hardware stores across T&T, Rowley said the Attorney General would be asked to further amend the regulations to allow them to open for six days--half day each day except on Sundays.
This move would result in such businesses moving from operating only half day three days per week, as the previous amendment had seen their hours reduced, after it was noted that members of the public continued to congregate in such establishments.
T&T students to get aid this week
Although the nation's borders will remain closed until May 15, applications for exemptions can continue to be made to National Security Minister Stuart Young. Referring to a group of T&T nationals who remain stranded in Surinam at this time, Rowley said if they could organise a flight home, permission would be granted for their re-entry into the country.
And for those T&T students which the Government is responsible for at campuses abroad, Rowley assured financial aid would be provided to them beginning by as early as Monday.