No amount of begging will cause the Government to re-open the borders at this time.
The airport and sea ports will remain closed and no exceptions will be made because the priority is the protection of the people within the country from the killer COVID-19 virus.
This was the emphatic position of National Security Minister Stuart Young who said yesterday that those in Barbados, Margarita and wherever else in the world have to stay put until the borders are opened again.
The Minister said he empathises but no exceptions will be made and the Government will also not be footing the hotel bills of persons stranded in Barbados.
Speaking at a news conference at the Health Ministry, Port of Spain, young noted that on Saturday he announced that the borders would be closed on Sunday midnight and people still took the decision to fly in an attempt to come to Trinidad from London via Barbados where there is a mandatory 14-day quarantine in place.
“The people who got on the flight to Barbados took risk of getting to Barbados after the Government announced its measures that we will not be allowing persons on our borders from midnight last night (Sunday), they flew yesterday, yesterday was Monday when the borders were already closed,” he said.
“So no amount of pleading and coming from all different directions is going to assist because once you allow one person to break that barrier then where do you stop? What is the difference between the 35 and the others who may be in other parts of the world? We are not granting exemptions, they are comfortable in a hotel...they should have known before they got on the plane from Barbados to London that Barbados had a mandatory quarantine, we are not opening our borders,” he said.
Asked later yesterday whether the T&T nationals would be brought home after the 14-day quarantine in Barbados, Young said: “Right now that is a premature question because she have not said how long the borders are closed. We are dealing with the present and right now the borders are closed....We don’t know what the situation would be (with the pandemic) when they are finished their quarantine.”
Call to Mottley
Some 35 T&T nationals fled England with the hope of returning to Trinidad but have been left stranded in Barbados with the closure of this country’s borders. The Barbados government took a “humanitarian decision” to keep them at a hotel under mandatory quarantine after the Government of Trinidad and Tobago refused them entry.
Young disclosed that on Monday he spoke to Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley and Attorney General Dale Marshall and had a very “Caricom conversation” where he told them both that the borders were closed and the nationals cannot return here at this time.
He, however, reiterated no exemptions would be made.
The minister said before closing the borders, plans were put in place with respect to returning Trinidad and Tobago nationals who are at The UWI Cave Hill campus in Barbados, and also talks with respect to Caricom nationals here in Trinidad.
“It is not an exemption that is now open for everybody else. Unfortunately our nationals who are spread all over the globe—our message to you is to stay put, be safe, be responsible wherever you are, but this Government is resolute that we will continue to protect the population of Trinidad and Tobago that are here by upholding the measures that we’ve put in place,” he said. Young stressed this is all done in the interest of the people.
To protect the people
With respect to nationals stranded in Margarita, Young said the number is not 70, but did not provide a specific figure. However, the minister noted a man who claimed to the media he was stranded in Margarita is actually a resident of that country.
The man, Jagdesh Pramsook, had said he was trapped on the island and has little money and access to clean water and supplies.
Young presented a copy of Pramsook’s Venezuelan identification card to show he is a Venezuelan resident. The minister said the borders have to be shut and there will be people running to the media with all kinds of stories, but the Government is holding fast to its decision to protect the people.
In response to whether there will be state of emergency, Young said it is not a priority discussion at this stage, but it could happen.