The Trinidad and Tobago government on Saturday announced a minor relaxation in some of the measures aimed at curbing the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, but maintained that churches, restaurants and bars would remain closed until at least October 24.
Prime Minister Dr. Keith Rowley, speaking at the Ministry of Health news conference said that his administration was working towards preventing another lockdown of the country, since it would result in a financial burden to the state and further cripple the economy.
Rowley recalled that the first lockdown had been funded by the government through borrowing adding “we now have to build on that foundation by not incurring that expense and how do we do that, we do not that being very careful about how we use the space that we get by virtue of the good response we make to the virus, it gives us space to slow down the virus…..
“If we overdo it we run the risk of needing to go back into a lockdown and that’s the last thing that we want and that is why we have looked very closely at the numbers, the projections and the models as to what is likely to happen if we do not carefully manage our coming back out”
Latest figures issued by the Ministry of Health show that there are 5,043 positive cases of the virus with 90 deaths. There are 1, 776 active cases.
Rowley said that based on the advice of the medical experts, the government would allow for “some adjustments” to the measures and protocols already in place.
He said the adjustments “would allow us still to be wary of the spread of the virus, but we step forward a bit”.
He said that as a result, the number of people allowed to congregate has been increased to 10 from five and that persons attending funerals will move from 10 to 20.
In addition, the state-owned Caribbean Airlines (CAL) will operate six flights daily between Trinidad and Tobago, up for the present two flights, with Rowley indicating that this would also help alleviate the economic hardship on the sister isle.
“We have been very concerned about the effects of the current approaches on Tobago where Tobago is so entirely dependent on a nature of activity, with those activities by themselves being the ones that are most detrimental …but we need to keep some life going in Tobago’s economy and we have agreed that there should be more traffic between Trinidad and Tobago,” Rowley said.
Rowley said that he had also been lobbied by the clergy in an effort to have the resumption of religious services.
“It is our view that if there is no significant upward tick in our concentrations now by the 24th of this month we should be able to make the changes that would bring back activities into the churches and other places of worship and we can do a bit more for bars and restaurants.
“That being so, what you would have gathered from what I have said we are taking slow steps forward again hoping that there will be a continuation of the cooperation of the national population with the protocols which seem to be working for us…”
Rowley also expressed disappointment that public servants were staying away from their work, despite measures having been put in place to ensure the service continues to function. He said as a result, new measures will be instituted and hinted at the possibility of workers not receiving payment if they fail to turn up for work when rostered to do so.
Trinidad and Tobago continues to have its borders closed even as National Security Minister Stuart Young informed on Saturday that repatriation flights were being undertaken.
Regarding the plans by the regional integration grouping, CARICOM to establish a “bubble” to facilitate intra-regional travel, Rowley said “CARICOM is still operating in some semblance of a sharing of space but the challenges have not gone away.
“Some new challenges occurred within the bubble and the intention was that we all would try to be at the same level of infection and control so that our populations would not be at any additional risks by mixing. We have not got to that yet because…some countries, the small territories have always had smaller exposures and smaller responses, fortunately, they still remain among the least, numerically, infected.
“The bigger territories are the ones still struggling,” Rowley said, adding “so we have not yet all come down to the designated number of 20 per day and that is still a little way off.
“We are outside of that and most of our CARICOM colleagues, however, we are hopeful if our populations are well managed and they are cooperative that we, by and large, could get down to lower numbers, but where we are not able to respond appropriately it is to be expected that the numbers could get larger,” Rowley said.