The Trinidad and Tobago government on Friday announced a further “battering down” of the country to deal with the spike in COVID-19 cases.
Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley, flanked by several ministers and medical experts, told a news conference that he is “personally disappointed” at the response of persons to the earlier measures outlined by the government to deal with the virus/
He told reporters that the time has come for further closures and continued enforcement of Public Health Regulations.
Rowley said only absolutely essential movement will be allowed.
“The fundamentals of our response as a country remains that we want to reduce the amount of people by directing the other people and we want to restrict the amount of people on the move in the country.
“So except for the absolute essentials of requirements to get food and water and electricity and pharmaceuticals and so and to keep the kind of livelihood to pay some of those bills, the rest of this country is to batten down for the next two weeks,” Rowley told reporters, saying that the new measures, which include a halt to all construction work, would take effect from midnight.
Prime Minister Rowley also hinted at further restrictions if, after May 23, there is not a significant decline in the number of COVID-19 infections.
“Let me ask you, if the behaviour continues, the disregard continues, the don’t give a damn continues, God is a Trini continues, not me but he. If that continues what decision do you expect me to make on the 23rd of May. I throw that out for your consideration,” he told reporters.
“We are asking everyone to stay at home, work from home,” Rowley said as the government announced the suite of new measures.
Minister in the Office of the Prime Minister, Stuart Young, announced the various restrictions during the two-hour news conference.
He said persons should not be in the workplace unless they are part of essential services, and even in those services, work from home is encouraged where possible.
“All establishments that have been allowed to stay open at this time are to close at 8.00 pm (local time) and operate at 50 percent. Public transport to decrease from 75 percent capacity to 50 percent and unless they are designated as ‘live in’, domestic services are to be suspended.”
In addition, the government said that retail stores will be allowed to only sell food, medicine and other essentials of life and that all construction work is to cease
“Only emergency services allowed for auto repair businesses. Only emergency services will be allowed for dentistry, ophthalmology, etc,” Young said reminding the public that restaurants are closed and curbside pickup and delivery services are not allowed.
Prime Minister Rowley said he was also disappointed that when the measures were first announced earlier this month to curb the spread of the virus, the number of people and organizations that sought exemptions.
In the meantime, Epidemiologist, Dr Avery Hinds, warned that with the cases continuing to rise daily, the health care system can be overwhelmed faster than the seven to 10-day time period announced on Monday. He said the first week of May already has more than half the number of COVID-19 cases recorded in the month of April.
Principal Medical Officer in the Ministry of Health, Dr Maryam Abdool Richards, said that additional beds were now being provided at hospitals as a result of the upsurge, noting that 70 percent of the 542 beds are occupied at present.
Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh said he was forced to shed a tear on Friday drove in the capital and saw “a total disregard for the public health protocols.
“We don’t know what else to do to get the man in the street to understand the situation we are in,” Deyalsingh said, adding that he is hopeful that the ongoing national vaccination programme will prove beneficial in reducing the number of virus cases.
Deyalsingh said that the gift of 100,000 doses of the Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine from China will arrive next week.
Prime Minister Rowley told reporters that on Monday, Finance Minister Colm Imbert will address the issue of government assistance to persons who have been affected by the closure of the country.