Public health regulations, which were due to expire today, have now been extended to July 4.
And Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley said yesterday the Government is going to Parliament tomorrow to extend the state of emergency (SoE) for 90 days.
Rowley made these announcements yesterday, noting the Covid-19 numbers are still too high to relax any measures.
On April 29, the PM had ordered a wide-scale lockdown affecting many businesses, including restaurants, bars, casinos, malls, gyms, spas, cinemas and others.
Additional restrictions were imposed one week later, with only essential businesses such as hardwares, supermarkets and pharmacies being allowed to operate. The restrictions were to remain in effect until May 23.
Speaking during a news conference at the Diplomatic Centre in St Ann’s yesterday, Rowley said he had hoped to be able to lift the restrictions by today, but the country’s Covid-19 situation had not improved.
However, he said the restrictions can be revoked at any time once the desired decrease in Covid-19 numbers is achieved.
“It doesn’t mean that we are going to be in this situation for 90 days; we will revoke it as soon as that is the prudent action to take. Whether it is one month after or six weeks after or whatever time, we want to come out of it as quickly as possible. But we will have the legal ability to go for 90 days.
“And so all of that, both the SoE and the public health regulations, will be determined by what the condition is in the country at any day. But the expected condition has not been attained. And, in fact, it has worsened. So we are now looking further down the road. What we’re really looking at here now... we’re looking at July 4,” he said.
Rowley urged the population to follow the Covid-19 guidelines to ensure the restrictions can be lifted sooner rather than later.
“The more disciplined we are on this, the more successful we are in managing our infection levels, the quicker we come out of this,” he said.
Rowley tells Opposition to stand aside
Rowley also urged the Opposition to leave politics out of the Covid-19 crisis.
He said the Opposition had sought to challenge the Government’s handling of the pandemic “every step of the way” through scores of court matters, lies and misinformation.
“While some of us stay awake at night, into the wee hours of the morning, thinking how are we going to ensure that the numbers go down... there are others who have other objectives,” Rowley said.
“You would have heard about the whole question in the early days about the Government hiding information from the public. It didn’t matter that it wasn’t true, but it was being said then that people were dying in the hospitals, even before we had our first reported death...some of my colleagues were saying that people were dying in the hospitals and we were hiding it. And that was an aspersion on the professionalism and character of the professional staff...”
Rowley further chided Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar, who he said had brought health workers into disrepute by suggesting that elderly people were being overlooked for Covid-19 care and left to die.
“I heard the Opposition Leader on a political platform saying that the policy of the Government is to determine that older people with co-morbidities should not be taken care of in the hospital; they should be put aside to die without care because we are now focusing on younger people.
“I find that very painful because it is not true. This Government has no such policy. This Government has indicated no such policy to our professional staff because the Government, as you understand it to be, stops by the hospital door. What goes on inside the hospital with respect to your life, and even your death, we leave that to those who have taken the Hippocratic oath,” he said.
Rowley urged the Opposition to step aside and allow the health professionals to do their jobs.
“If you’re not going to help us fight this fight, then stand aside, for God’s sake! Do not get involved so as to make our lives more threatened and the lives of the people who are handling it,” he said.
On the issue of vaccines, Rowley urged the population to accept any vaccine that is available. He expressed gratitude to the governments of Bermuda and St Vincent and the Grenadines, which have donated their unused supply of vaccines to T&T.
He noted some countries have a preference of which brand of vaccine to use, but said T&T would use any vaccine approved by the World Health Organization (WHO).