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Back home: Nationals disembark from lifeboats from the Disney Fantasy cruise ship at the Port of Port of Spain yesterday, after being given the all-clear by the Minister of National Security to come home. —Photo: JERMAINE CRUICKSHANK

TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO does not have enough facilities on land to quarantine the high number of returning nationals at the same time.

This was explained by Minister of Health Terrence Deyalsingh at yesterday’s Ministry of Health virtual news conference, following questions posed by the Express.

Deyalsingh said while there were 948 beds available across the board to the Health Ministry, the reality was that about half of these were allocated for immediate quarantine procedures.

He added that there were 406 beds available for quarantine.

However, Deyalsingh noted that with the virulence of the coronavirus becoming more pronounced since its inception, the State planned to use about 75 per cent of these beds, as far as possible, to ensure adequate spacing to limit the spread of the disease.

This meant only 304 beds were planned on being used for now; and of that number, 87 were already occupied as of yesterday with the return of 52 ­nationals.

“So, with that in mind, it is difficult to facilitate 400 to 500 persons at the same time on land,” Deyalsingh said.

This was why the State was exploring the idea of having more than 300 Trinidad and Tobago nationals aboard Royal Caribbean’s Vision of the Seas cruise ship quarantine on the vessel in T&T waters before they are allowed to go home to their families.

Negotiations are currently under way between the Government and the vessel’s management.

There are 345 T&T nationals aboard Vision of the Seas.

“If the Minister of National Security finds agreement with the cruise ship operators, and it would be a big if, it would be under quarantine protocols as managed by our Chief Medical Officer, working in conjunction with the ship’s onboard medi­cal personnel,” Deyalsingh said.

If this process came to fruition, it was hoped that after the quarantine period, these citizens would be able to go straight to their homes and not have to go through further isolation.

This was necessary, as a balance must be struck in the treatment of returning nationals from the cruise ships, between humanitarian (in their treatment) and the protection of the rest of the population.

Coast Guard members still in quarantine; Venezuelans return

During the news conference, Communications Minister Donna Cox also announced that the 32 Venezuelan nationals, who were rescued from a sinking vessel last week by members of the T&T Coast Guard, were repatriated on Sunday.

And the 32 Coast Guard personnel who were involved in the operation ­remained in quarantine.

Of the 87 nationals who returned recently, Deyalsingh said they have been placed in three quarantine centres.

Seven are quarantined at Cascadia Hotel in Port of Spain; 21 are quarantined at the Tacarigua Racquet Centre; and 59 are quarantined at the Debe campus of The University of the West Indies.

He said a further 56 nationals were expected to come into the country this week, with 26 from the Carnival Fantasy cruise ship, and 30 from Caracas, Venezuela.

The nationals returning from Caracas are expected to be housed at the Brooklyn Settlement Facility, while the others will be at the Home of Football in Couva.

“We currently have no Covid-19-positive patients in the hospital system,” Deyal­singh said.

He thanked the population for their cooperation in adhering to “physical distancing”, and urged citizens to continue to adhere to precautionary measures for their own safety.

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“We can never forgive the Government policy that denied my father the right to return home.”