That was the advice of National Security Minister Stuart Young to all Trinidad and Tobago citizens abroad looking to fly back home amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
Speaking at a news conference yesterday at the Diplomatic Centre, St Ann’s, Young said, “We have closed our borders. Making these requests to us from all different quarters, and all different modes asking for an exemption is not going to work at this time. We are being very, very strict for the protection of the people who are here in Trinidad and Tobago.”
Jagdesh Pramsook is one out of the 70 Trinidad and Tobago citizens stranded in Margarita, Venezuela, who are pleading to be brought back home.
The father of two says he feels dejected by the Government’s slow response to get all Trinidad nationals back home.
He says the lack of compassion shown by the Government towards their plight has forced him and his wife to realise they will have to fend for themselves.
Pramsook says phone and Internet connection in Venezuela are inconsistent.
Reaching out to the Express via WhatsApp to share what is happening to the group, Pramsook said while other countries are finding ways to get their citizens out, he thinks the Government is not treating their circumstance with enough urgency.
He said, “The Americans and the Canadians are doing it. If our Government are copying those systems, why don’t they copy this too? Right now, I just really need some good news.”
Pramsook and his wife are staying with friends in Porlamar, Margarita, which is a short distance from the General Santiago Marino International Airport.
He arrived in Margarita on March 8 to visit his wife, who is a Venezuelan national. Pramsook made plans to leave last week Monday, but with the airports now closed, he is trapped on the island.
Young yesterday said he has gotten numerous requests from T&T citizens flying in from different jurisdictions hoping to come home, but reiterated there will be no exemptions.
He said, “When you make those trips you are now putting those countries at risk as well. We are asking persons wherever you are to just stay put.”
Young said while the Minister of National of Security has the power to grant exemptions, it will only be exercised in the “most crucial of circumstances.” Young gave examples in cases such as flying samples for testing or transporting medical personnel. Young has said the Government cannot extract T&T citizens from other countries affected by COVID-19 once those countries have closed their borders.
PM stands firm
Speaking on the radio station i95.5fm on Sunday, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley sought to explain the recent actions taken by the Government in light of the COVID-19 crisis.
He said while the Government was trying to encourage the population to understand why it’s doing certain things such as the closing of bars, the Opposition felt the bars should stay open.
“The Opposition Leader must have known that the Venezuelan authorities had shut down the airport in Margarita,” Rowley said.
“So why call on the Government to send a plane to Margarita to pick up people (the stranded T&T nationals). What is the plane going to do? Circle Margarita and send down a rope ladder to pick up the people?
“All they are trying to do is to give the impression that the Government is not doing the best that they can,” he said.