Trinidad and Tobago is now under a state of emergency.
A curfew is also in effect, requiring citizens to stay in their homes between the hours of 9 p.m. and 5 a.m., with exceptions made for essential workers.
Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley announced the measures yesterday, one day after the business community called for an state of emergency and curfew to be implemented in an effort to bring the Covid-19 case count under control.
Speaking during a news conference at the Diplomatic Centre in St Ann’s Rowley said the move became necessary in light of the high numbers of cases and the rising death toll, which saw 21 deaths being recorded in a single day last week.
“Very soon we would be happy when it’s only 21 because it could go to a number where only 21 is a great improvement,” Rowley said.
The state of emergency took effect from midnight last night, and is to remain in place until further notice.
“So, if you don’t have to be out for exempted reasons, you stay home under force of law,” Rowley stressed.
The Prime Minister thanked the business community for voicing its support for the measures, and noted there had been a turnaround by some people who were initially opposed to stricter restrictions.
He said the turnaround comes as the Covid-19 figures became names and faces of people and loved ones.
“Today in Trinidad and Tobago we have a population that is running scared,” he said.
“I woke up yesterday and people were telling me to press the panic button. I’m sorry it has come to coffins and the faces of dead people to realise that we have always been in a very difficult place.”
Rowley said the energy sector, food supply chain, pharmacies, public and private transport will be exempted.
And he stressed that there is no need to rush to supermarkets and gas stations to panic buy. These services will remain open.
A full list of exempted services is to be released soon, he added.
In addition to the curfew, all face-to-face classes in secondary schools have been stopped. Pupils scheduled to write the CSEC and CXC exams were up until now being allowed to have physical classes in preparation for the exams.
Rowley said this would be halted and the Ministry of Education would advise as to any further plans.
The Ministry of Education will also advise, sometime next week, on plans for the Secondary Entrance Assessment (SEA) exam, which has been scheduled for June 10.
Rowley urged the population to be responsible and adhere to the measures under the state of emergency.
T&T last declared a state of emergency in 2011, in response to a wave of crime. Under the then-Kamla Persad-Bissessar government, dozens of people were arrested under the Anti-Gang Act.
That state of emergency lasted just over three months. Most of those arrested were eventually released, after it was determined there was insufficient evidence to justify their detainment.
Some took legal action against the State and won settlements.
Questioned what would be in place to ensure the state of emergency goes smoothly this time around, Rowley noted this state of emergency is taking place under completely different circumstances.
“None of us in this country have ever been in a state of emergency during a pandemic. Use that as your guide,” he said.
“This is not a comparison of another state of emergency. This situation calls for this, and the length of it will be determined by the response that we get. I’m saying the more co-operative the response, the shorter will be the period.”