A group of Trinidadian women who boarded a 40-minute flight to Margarita on March 15 has made an emotional plea to be reunited with their young children.
The seven-day trip to perform corrective surgery turned into a nightmare, the women said, as five days into their stay Venezuelan authorities closed it borders to prevent the spread of COVID-19 coronavirus.
At that time there were 42 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Venezuela and a decision was taken to implement a nationwide quarantine.
As at April 5, there were 159 positive COVID-19 cases in Venezuela, with seven deaths.
Trinidad and Tobago recorded its first COVID-19 case on March 12. And National Security Minister Stuart Young announced that the country’s borders will be closed to international flights to curb the spread of the virus on March 22.
Young said he had received reports of the 70 people in Margarita. He said the Trinidad and Tobago Embassy in Venezuela was in contact with the nationals. But the Government could not extract T&T citizens from other countries affected by COVID-19 once those countries have closed their borders, he said.
The women contacted the Express on WhatsApp last week with an appeal to Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley. One woman, who asked not to be identified, said, “Prime Minister Dr Rowley please…we are mothers, we have babies. Please bring us back home.”
The woman said she had undergone surgery in Margarita on March 16. She said, “We are a group of four stuck here in Margarita. We came in on March 15 and to leave on March 22. Before we left Trinidad there were no cases in Margarita and we confirmed with the doctor and travel agency that it was okay to fly. The package was for seven days.”
She said they were unaware that the Venezuelan borders would be closed, as they would have immediately returned home.
Now, the four friends are pooling their resources to pay for accommodation and food.
“It is so sad that when the Venezuelans came to Trinidad we were told to open our doors and help them. We are stuck here and they are not doing the same for us,” she cried.
The woman said they have secured an apartment but will not have funds to pay the rental for a second month. She said their food supplies were running low and they have no more cash. “The only money we have remaining is for departure tax. Our greatest fear is running out of food and not being able to return home,” she said.
The woman said she had no access to medical treatment as she had undergone intense surgery and was in severe pain. “I am also suffering from low blood pressure and low blood count without any treatment,” she said.
She said the other women also underwent surgery and were having painful recoveries.
“One of the women returned because she was having complications from a previous surgery,” she said.
The group was contacted by the Trinidad and Tobago Embassy in Venezuela but no assistance was being rendered, the Express was told.
“The landlord has not been very good to us. We wash clothes and hang to dry on chairs but land lord was not pleased and insist we pay US$5 to use the washer,” she said.
In a media conference last week, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley said the decision to close this country’s borders was to protect citizens from the spread of the deadly virus, as other countries around the world had done. He said his younger daughter was in “ground zero” in New York and wanted to come home but was unable to do so as the borders have been closed.