Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley pleaded with businesses and vacationers in Tobago to remain vigilant at today’s press conference, which is expected to be the last Covid-19 briefing before Christmas Day.
The government will retain current novel coronavirus protocols until 10 January at the earliest. And Rowley warned the public not to let their discipline drop in the season of merriment.
“We are seeing and hearing that some people are dropping their guard,” said Rowley. “I want to appeal to the business community—this might be your best week, I know that—[but] don’t let it be the week that we have lost the gains we have made. Continue to emphasise sanitation, distancing and the lack of congregation.
“[…] You don’t have to be in people’s face to shop. Help in the national effort by shopping in your own space and keep the congregations small.”
Rowley’s message follows a spike in cases due to a cluster at the Perenco Trinidad and Tobago Limited offshore platform in the Teak oilfield, which accounts for 36 positive cases in the past week and 30 of today’s 47 new infections.
Even at the height of the Covid-19 restrictions, the government allowed the energy sector to operate within particular guidelines. Minister of Health Terrence Deyalsingh said the Perenco oil rigs will be properly sanitised while even employees who tested negative are now in quarantine at the company’s expense. But there will be no shutdown.
Vigilance, according to the government, is key. That goes for persons heading to Tobago for the Christmas holidays as well.
“Tobago is not a ‘free-up zone’, it is not a Covid propagation zone,” said Rowley. “It is a great place to spend the Christmas and the new year. But you see these parties you are organising? You are going to be visited by law enforcement along the way.
“[…] The prescriptions we have taken [to restrict the spread of the virus] have worked, so let us not give them up […] and then start 2021 from a higher plane than we should have been, if we reacted differently.”
Minister of National Security Stuart Young said the government is following reports regarding the new strain of the virus in the the United Kingdom. His ministry will not block the return of citizens from or through Britain, but the quarantine period for such travellers will now be doubled.
“Anyone who has been in the United Kingdom over the previous 14 day period, you are going to—after producing your necessary [negative] PCR test [result]—be put into quarantine for 14 days, and then we will test you again.
“That is our current position. It is subject to change as you all have seen throughout the management of this [virus].”
Deyalsingh said the Caribbean should receive Covid vaccines by March and the Ministry of Health is preparing for this development. At present, Trinidad and Tobago has three -72 degrees sub-zero freezers—‘that can be pressed into use’—and two -20 degrees sub-zero freezers. A purchase order has been made for additional freezers while a committee should start meeting in early January to review tenders to build chillers.
“We hope to have a chiller done and dusted and installed in Couva by February,” said Deyalsingh.
Rowley noted the restrictions on the food and entertainment industry, which will be reviewed in January—once the country’s infection rate remains manageable.
He noted though that ‘the absence of interaction among our children’ was linked with a 31 percent increase in mental health issues for children in the United States. Trinidad and Tobago does not have similar data on how its own minors are coping, but the prime minister is anxious to get students back into classrooms as soon as it is safe to do so.
Bars notwithstanding, it is likely to be the next major step by the government in the new year.
At present, the twin island republic has 451 active positive cases with 25 hospitalised persons. There have been 7,071 infections and 125 deaths since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic in March.