Minister of National Security Stuart Young says Trinidad and Tobago will close its international borders completely from midnight Sunday (March 22) to prevent the spread of the novel Coronavirus (COVID-19).
Young made the announcement at a press conference on measures to prevent the spread of the virus on Saturday, noting that the airports will be closed to all international flights until further notice.
The move came even as Minister of Health Terrence Deyalsingh confirmed that there are 40 new cases of the virus in Trinidad and Tobago, taking the overall national figure to 49 cases.
The 40 new cases were from among the batch of 68 nationals who were immediately quarantined at Camp Balandra after they returned home from an ill-fated Caribbean cruise in Guadeloupe on Wednesday.
Young said air and sea cargo will still be allowed into the country but the crews from those vessels will not be allowed the disembark and all people traffic, both nationals and non-nationals, will not be allowed entry by either air or sea. However, he said travellers were free to leave the country but would not be allowed to re-enter. He also said the domestic air and sea bridges will remain open at this time but this will be reviewed along the way.
“We recognise the difficulties that people are going to face personally, but the public interest in a balancing exercise is about protection of life,” he said.
Young said the T&T nationals who were stranded in countries which had shut down their borders, including cases he had become aware of in Venezuela and Guyana, could not be helped at this stage, since those countries had also taken the decisions to shut down their airports to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
He said the Government had no doubt this was the best measure at this time to prevent the virus from spreading across the country and urged all citizens to follow the protocol.
“The only way we will stop the spread of this virus is by lack of contact and social personal responsibility and the Government took the decisive action to say that we will shut bars,” he said.
“We understand the difficulty that this causes businesses, we are very mindful of that, that came up in our discussions at the deliberations but it is not business as usual, unfortunately, around the globe. So we have to take these hard decisions to protect the people on Trinidad and Tobago, including the family members of the owners of these establishments.”
He said just before the press conference they also received information that betting shops were still being opened. Saying they fell under the recently declare Public Health Ordinance law, Young urged that this be stopped.
He also urged religious leaders to desist from holding gatherings, noting that one pastor in Central Trinidad was still inviting his congregation to events.
“This virus is spread by contact and anyone who doesn’t understand that at this stage has a serious problem,” he said.