GIVEN the Health Minister’s emphatic pronouncement four days ago that “persons who are presently living or visiting China, regardless of nationality, will not be allowed entry in T&T for 14 days after leaving China”, it comes as a surprise that such individuals are passing through immigration and into the general population.
Notwithstanding the confidence with which Minister Terrence Deyalsingh spoke, we have to confess to being confused about the Government’s new anti-coronavirus immigration regime which, according to him, was approved on Thursday with “immediate effect”. At first blush, it seemed that, as of that moment, no one who had not been out of China for 14 days would be allowed to enter Trinidad and Tobago without being quarantined. And yet, they were.
We note as well that although Minister Deyalsingh gave the impression that the new immigration policy would take immediate effect, he also alluded to “legal niceties” required of the Attorney General for the restrictions to take effect. All of this begs the question: Is the requirement of 14-day interregnum between a person leaving China and being allowed into Trinidad and Tobago in effect or not?
By last Friday, the Government appeared to have modified its strict position. In a statement delivered to Parliament, Minister Deyalsingh said that persons who arrive in T&T within 14 days of being in China “may be subject to quarantine measures”. Having changed the position, the minister must now publicly state the criteria to be applied in determining who may or may not be subject to quarantine measures. We urge him to do so to eliminate the confusion being created by the Government in saying one thing, doing another, and then saying something else.
The minister must also clarify two issues regarding his statement that “regardless of nationality”, persons will not be allowed into T&T within 14 days of leaving China.” Does this mean that every person, regardless of nationality, who turns up at a port of entry will be taken into quarantine for 14 days before being allowed into the population? Do persons have a choice of refusing to be quarantined for 14 days and returning to China and elsewhere?
We raise these questions in light of Jamaica’s decision to send back 19 Chinese nationals who arrived there on Friday night and were denied landing privileges. After a night in quarantine the 19 people were put on a return trip to China. Similar action was taken on Saturday in relation to another group. Is there a common Caricom approach on this issue?
Clarity is a pressing concern, especially for nationals in China, some of whom have taken to social media to express their frustration at the Government’s perceived insensitivity to their situation. While Minister Deyalsingh was at pains to list the number of airlines that have stopped flying to China, he did not acknowledge the number of governments that have sent special flights to take their people out of China. Instead of telling T&T nationals to stay in China where the threat of infection is at its highest, we should be finding ways to get them home and into quarantine or treatment as the case may be.