A customer leaves KFC

LAST BITE: A customer leaves KFC on Independence Square, Port of Spain, yesterday after Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley announced harsher Covid restrictions to curb the spread of the deadly virus that has claimed the lives of over three million people.

—Photo: JERMAINE CRUICKSHANK

The lockdown has returned.

Violators beware, the police will intervene wherever-including in your homes.

With the level of infection “reaching disturbing heights” and many citizens “throwing all caution to the winds”, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley yesterday announced the re-instatement of an almost total lockdown at his first in-person news conference in Scarborough, Tobago since coming out of isolation.

Yesterday there were 328 new cases of Covid-19, the highest daily number of new cases so far.

As he announced the measures, the Prime Minister said the police will be cracking down on “house parties, family gatherings, liming by a house next to a bar and those kinds of things. “The already overworked police will go one step further and where they believe there are activities taking place which are inimical to the public interest, under the protection of the existing law, they will intervene,” he said. Among the restrictions which took effect from midnight were: the closure of restaurants and bars, malls, places of worship, gyms, fitness centres, hairdressing salons, spas, casinos, betting shops, theatres, cinemas and clubs.

The Public Service will operate on essential services only, as would travel to Tobago.

Tobago will be partly isolated, receiving three flights a day and the seabridge operating at 25 per cent capacity.

All tours to various recreation areas such as the Buccoo Reef and the Bird Sanctuary will not be permitted.

All the restrictions will stay in place until May 23.

No take out, make a sandwich

There will be no take-out or food deliveries, as was allowed during last year’s lockdown.

“Instead of ordering food, eat a sandwich at home,” the Prime Minister advised.

He said street food, such as doubles vending, will be allowed as long as the number of people gathered does not exceed five.

Outdoor exercising would not be affected as long as people wear their masks and do not exercise in groups of more than five.

National Lotteries Control Board (NLCB) games at vendor booths will proceed with the five-person congregation rule.

The Prime Minister said some of the people who “we think should lead this country at their location, at their homes and in their communities because they are in a position to lead...have been putting themselves above the regulations saying ‘(the regulations) don’t apply to them and to their neighbourhood and they felt that they could organise a party because the police can’t come in and tell them what to do. Yes, the police will be able to tell you what to do,” the Prime Minister stated.

He said the Government had taken the position previously not to “overly intrude on individual freedoms even as the country fought the virus.

“But if in so doing, persons are using that to misbehave and create situations that threaten the rest of the country, therefore I want to let the country know that the existing laws and regulations of T&T, I have been properly advised by lawyers...allow the police to intervene in private spaces if the police are duly of the opinion that what is going on in that private space is detrimental to the public interest with respect to this public health emergency...And the police would be so advised and guided.”

The Prime Minister also announced that Government would use the 38,000 vaccines it was holding back as a second dose to give additional first doses to people, saying: “One dose is better than no dose.”

He said the general reaction of the population when vaccines started to be distributed “was to let our guard down”.

PM: We will try to help those in need

The Prime Minister said the Government knew that these measures would create some hardships from a financial and spiritual (“we hated to have to close churches, mosques and mandirs”) aspect.

“We know what is going to happen. But we also know what is going to happen if we don’t do it,” he said. “We could shift all of this from the bars and the restaurants and churches. We could shift all of this—the activity and the outcome—to the hospital and to the morgues and to the graveyards.”

Rowley said: “So please don’t encourage your family to come and visit you. Please don’t have birthday parties to hug up your nene and your nanny. Stay home! Stay away from people...You could lose your life or end up with long-term consequences.”

He added that the Government was “reluctantly forced to curb the activities which bring people together”.

“This kind of situation we know is another situation of pain for persons who we have to help. How far we can go, I couldn’t say just yet. But we certainly do not have the amount of resources we had last year, when we had some resources in hand and when we borrowed considerably,” he said.

He said the Government would try to put some of the same conditions in place, provided it could be afforded.

PM: I don’t want to

hear nutten from UNC

Questioned about Opposition criticisms, the Prime Minister went on the offensive.

He said many of those who were bringing migrants to Trinidad and Tobago “were the ones in front talking” about migrants and the virus and the porous borders.

“And frankly I would take pleasure in seeing them in the hands of the police and be exposed for the business they involved in. Cause many of them out front making an issue about migrants and as fast as the Government tries to respond, they find ways around it,” he said.

He said the only border in the world people were not trying to come through was the North Korean border.

He said it was not logistically possible to put a chicken wire fence around the country to prevent migrants.

He said the one person he didn’t want to hear telling him anything about the porous border was Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar and the UNC.

“Because this problem of Venezuelans didn’t start under this Government. We are the ones who stopped it. We are the ones who put them on visa, who repatriated some of them and got the Coast Guard to be aggressive in the Gulf.”

Saying it was the Opposition that created the environment, the Prime Minister said it was the UNC that returned the patrol vessels.

“I don’t want to hear nutten from the Opposition on this particular matter about borders. Because half of them, is them and their friends, half the whore houses in this country is them bringing in people to make money there,” he said. (See Page 5)

The first person with the Brazilian variant of the virus was a male Venezuelan migrant.

Asked if he was scared when he got Covid, the Prime Minister said he was “sobered” by his grandmother’s admonition that “if yuh born to hang, yuh can’t drown”.

He said one of the instructions which came to his caregivers was to have an ambulance, a doctor and a nurse be assigned to him 24/7 but he declined this service in the interest of not adversely affecting the availability of service to the general public in Tobago.

He said instead, he promised to report on any changes he felt in his health situation.

The Prime Minister said this Eid which will be celebrated on May 13, would be one with a difference.

He said the scientific warning was correct as seen in many parts of the world where the resurgence of the virus in a second and third wave, was proving to be worse than the first.

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National Security Minister Fitzgerald Hinds says there’s no secrecy surrounding a small gift of Pfizer vaccines given to the National Security Ministry by the United States government.

In a telephone interview with the Express yesterday, the minister said the small vaccine gift of 80 vials of Pfizer amounted to about 400 doses of the vaccine.

However, the arrival of these vaccines generated curiosity in the country as to exactly how the batch came to Trinidad and the handover process as well as who exactly will benefit from the shots.

Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar stands accused by Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley and the People’s National Movement (PNM) of appealing for civil unrest like the 1990 attempted coup.

A thick layer of slush coats the roadways of Poui Trace in St Mary’s Village, Moruga, where quarrying activity has trapped some residents inside their homes.

At least five households are stuck behind near crumbling slopes and a muddy path used as an access route to and from the village.

As trucks filled with material leave and enter the area, clumps of mud are left behind, sometimes blocking the road.

A&V Oil and Gas Ltd stands to receive an estimated $84 million in cash being held in escrow, at the close of an arbitration ruling involving the now-defunct State-owned energy company Petrotrin.

PART 11 of an interview with Deputy Chief of Mission at the US Embassy in Port of Spain Shante Moore with journalist Andy Johnson, first aired on television station WESN last Friday.

Moore has been with the US Foreign Service for more than 20 years in such postings as Kuwait, Qatar, Kosovo, Nicaragua, Afghanistan, and Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean.