Young slams media, ‘washes hands’ of Trinbagonians stranded abroad; Dr Hinds offers ‘community spread’ info

Minister of National Security Stuart Young continued his criticism of the media today at a press conference to update the public on the country’s battle with Covid-19, as he suggested local journalists were being irresponsible by interviewing citizens stranded abroad who are desperate to return home.

The government shut the borders to all but cargo vessels and special exemptions at 12.01am on Monday—roughly a week after the country was similarly closed to non-nationals. However, over 100 Trinbagonians failed to make it home in time.

Photo: Coronavirus Covid-19 has been declared a global pandemic.
(Copyright Thrive Global)

Young made it clear that there would be no exemptions to citizens who failed to act quickly enough to return home. However, the Port of Spain North/St Ann’s West MP went further as he appeared to criticise the media for even giving them a voice.

“When we ask everyone to be personally responsible, it must include your friends in the media,” said Young, “because you are the ones at the end of the day, we are hoping, to get the messaging out there. The rest of the population is looking to you the members of the media—we are looking to you, as the government—to get the messaging right.

“I woke up this morning and saw, 3 o’ clock, a story in one of the daily newspapers about Mr Jagdesh Pramsook, who is described as one of the 70—I don’t know how we got to 70—citizens stranded in Margarita who are pleading to come home…

“And this gentleman is using the media here today to sell a story as to why he should be allowed in. Why he should be the one to break the borders and to be permitted back into Trinidad and Tobago.”

Young went on to suggest how he spent the rest of the morning, which seemed to be using his powers as National Security Minister to research Jagdesh Pramsook.

Photo: National Security Minister Stuart Young shows proof of his investigation into Jagdesh Pramsook, a scared 70 year old Trinidad and Tobago citizen who resides in Venezuela.

“What [Pramsook] did not tell you is he is a resident of Venezuela,” said Young, who waved an image of Pramsook’s ID card for the public. “What he didn’t say is in 2010, when he applied for his passport in Caracas, Venezuela, under residency and where he lived it was [written] Venezuela. What he didn’t tell you is he had a Venezuelan ID card.

“These are the types of things that are irresponsible. We have shut our borders to protect all of you here, to protect our citizens in Trinidad… The government is going to hold fast to protect the rest of the population.”

Young did not say what Pramsook’s alleged Venezuelan residential status had to do with whether he deserved an ear from the media, or had rights as a Trinidad and Tobago citizen.

And he did not specify who he felt journalists should interview—apart from the government—to be deemed ‘responsible’ in his esteem.

He similarly ridiculed an unnamed journalist for asking whether the Trinidad and Tobago government would help foot the bill for 35 citizens stranded at a hotel in Barbados, after leaving the United Kingdom in a desperate attempt to return home after the borders were closed on Monday.

Photo: Lab technicians at work during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“I found it a little disappointing to receive a question from a member of the media [asking] whether we in Trinidad and Tobago are going to foot the bill for these people in Barbados,” said Young. “[…] The population of Trinidad and Tobago understand that we didn’t ask anyone to leave Trinidad and Tobago and not come back here.

“[…] We feel empathy for you; but the duty of the government is to protect those here.”

Again, Young did not explain what made the press query invalid and ‘disappointing’.

There was another blast at the media for using the much bandied term, ‘community spread’, incorrectly in describing the first Covid-19 positive case without a travel history.

“For the media to rush out and say ‘community spread’, […] we are asking why,” said Young.

Dr Avery Hinds, director of the Health Ministry’s Epidemiology Division, was far more helpful to journalists and citizens looking in, as he explained the term.

“When we trace contacts, we have a person who we have identified as a confirmed case or a suspected case, and we are looking at your contacts,” said Hinds. “As long as we can identify a chain of transmission from one person, through primary, secondary, tertiary contacts, then we know where the virus has originated and how it got to the people, who turn up next.

Photo: Members of the public are asked to wash their hands properly to help prevent the spread of Covid-19.

“Community spread is where we start having cases where we do not know how you’ve been exposed—you did not have a travel history, you did not have a known contact history and, somewhere in there, there is a missing link between the importation that would have had to happen and the case that shows up in front of us.

“Spread within an identified chain of contact is not community spread.”

Trinidad and Tobago now has 53 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus, after 332 tests. Yesterday evening, the Caribbean Public Health Authority (CARPHA) confirmed the first positive case in Tobago, which is believed to be a Trinidadian who landed in Tobago via an international flight and had been quarantined there.

The second positive is, according to a release from the Ministry of Health, ‘a primary contact of an existing recently imported case’.

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  1. T&T has an obligation to protect and safeguard its citizens whether they are here or abroad and none is more equal than those who are abroad and want to re-enter their own country. None of these Ministers are performing as they should as they seem to be more affected/in panic more than we who are trying to avoid thge worst case scenario. These men seem to be unable to cope with the demands of the growing pandemic and are looking to make scapegoats of the media for asking the right questions on our behalf. Let them know that they cannot use you just as dumb and inanimate pvc conduits for information dissemination. You must interrogate them to get the real truth and not the varnished and synthetic propaganda-truth


    The GORTT of T&T in refusing to arrange entry/arrival home of 35 of our elderly nationals now stranded and quarantined somewhere in Barbados having arrived from the UK fleeing the plague that has enveloped that country is in violation of both law and humanitarianism.

    The first salvo is that: The Sabbath was made for man and not man for the Sabbath.

    A state cannot prevent its own citizens from re- entering its country especially in the face of the threat that they face on the outside world except on the very limited grounds of national security concerns.

    We have the model of the 68 who came from Guadeloupe and were quarantined in Balandra.
    Use this model again.

    Do not debar our nationals from their humanitarian entitlements to come home where they belong to be with their loved ones to face the current health crisis together.

    Please note the following based on the interview conducted by the Hon Dion Marshall of Barbados on this decision of the TT Government to disown it own nationals:
    • Barbados has a legal obligation to allow Caricom/T&T citizens to land in Barbados with their Caricom Passports and not to be refused entry because of freedom of movement under CSME
    • Barbados has a legal obligation to extend the minimum standard of humanitarian treatment and protection to T&T citizens who find themselves in Bajan jurisdiction;
    • Barbados is very concerned about its own nationals and distinguishes T&T nationals from those of Barbados although recent events made us feel that we were all one in this calamity that confronts us all;
    • Barbados has not closed its borders so far and a flight can bring these 35 nationals because the Piarco to Crown Point is still operational to date and a Special BA flight will pick up UK nationals in Trinidad both today and on Thursday even though it is said that our borders are closed bound for Gatwick.

    Government must act more humanely in air-lifting our nationals stranded in Curacao and Barbados in order to satisfy these people compelling homing instinct in the face of such adversity that they face on the outside and their natural and instinctive human drive and desire to rejoin their loved ones home and to suffer from the doomsday plague come what may together.

  3. This Government’s policy is to attack, demonise, ridicule and abuse anyone who questions them. PNM Minister Deyalsingh used the PM Press Conference to berated victims of COVID-19 claiming that the army had to be called i because they were “misbehaving” . Subsequent reports by the media showed that the conditions under which these persons were quarantined by the Government may have contributed to the spread. Now, the older newspapers do not seem to be publishing anything except the Government’s views and comments. Thank God for social media

  4. Does Minister Young truly believe that the job of the media is to take part in the government’s “messaging?” That’s never going to end well.

    • I don’t think that’s what he expects Mr. Lyndersay. I believe he’s asking for more responsible reporting. I have seen no less than 6 stories with unverified information that only serves to scare the population unnecessarily. Half-truths and the like. To what end?
      Why must there always be a negative slant?

      • Cindy, what could possibly be the motive of a reporter who says that a T&T citizen in Venezuela would like to come home? Can you share what you think the diabolical end game was?

    • Mark, The easy answer is no. But he is a politician; what he as an individual believes does not necessarily guide what he says and what he does.
      Which, IN A CRISIS SUCH AS WE ARE CURRENTLY EXPERIENCING, may not always be a bad thing.

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