10,000 nationals didn’t apply to be repatriated to Trinidad and Tobago, says Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley during today’s COVID-19 virtual press briefing at the Diplomatic Centre in St Ann’s, Port of Spain.
Rowley gave the exact figures as provided by the Ministry of National Security.
“The total number of individuals that applied to enter Trinidad and Tobago as at July 29, that figure is 5,539. Total number of exemptions granted to enter, that figure is 2,250. Individuals who applied to enter and who are currently awaiting exemptions, 3,289.
He also addressed the issue of people wanting to leave the country.
“The total number of individuals that applied to leave Trinidad and Tobago as of July 29 is 5,580 persons.”
He said those persons who applied to leave had to arrange their own transport via their embassies or otherwise, which was also subject to exemption approval.
“Total number of exemptions granted, that is actually those that got clearance to go, is 3,556. Individuals who applied to leave and are finalising travel arrangements is 2,024”
“You would have heard the Opposition Leader accusing the Government of making Stateless and abandoning 10,000 people. Now you understand where the figure of 10,000 came from. It is not 10,000 people knocking on the door outside to come in that you have abandon according to them. The figure of 10,000 has to deal with the 5,000 that wants to go out and the approximately 5,000 who wants to come in. And from the 5,000 who wants to come in, we’ve already brought in 2,250 and there’re others in the pipeline to come in.”
He said of the 5,239, first preference is given to people who are domiciled in Trinidad and Tobago, who have a good reason to want to return home either as a result of illness, need for medical attention, having small children at home or reason of age.
“What has not been given priority are persons who really don’t live here but decide to come here at this time. For such a person, on interview would not be at the top of the list coming in, that is why you would see 5,539 but some of those people are not ordinarily domiciled in Trinidad and Tobago. Those are not at the front of the list to come in given the attempt to bring home people who genuinely live here.”
Rowley said the Government has given permission to nationals in 40 countries to return home on the condition that they subject themselves to State quarantine upon arriving in the country. He said the State quarantine has been controlling the rate at which people are allowed to return, but a larger number have returned based on the fact that some have chosen to pay for their own quarantine.
“So those are the numbers and there’s no case of 10,000 persons out there. We’re managing now 3,289 and we’re bringing them in by the hundreds. And of course, given where we’re at now and the increase in numbers, we’re keeping our eyes open on what is possibly in Trinidad and Tobago if things go wrong, that we can have a lot of people here sick with the virus and occupying hospital spaces. Well then we have to be a little more cautious about how we bring people in.
He said from a geographical standpoint, the main contact point with Trinidad and Tobago is Florida, and that is where COVID is probably at its highest rate anywhere in the world, and added that the Government has so far repatriated 548 people from the United States, and 417 from cruise ships.
“So the process of repatriation of people is ongoing. It’s an integral part of our management of our virus threat, and I just want the population to know and not be misled by people screaming about numbers that mean nothing, and just exciting the population for no reason," Rowley said.