The government reinstated four measures today meant to flatten the curve of Covid-19 infections, as Trinidad and Tobago reels from its highest surge of the novel coronavirus since August 2020.
Minister of Health Terrence Deyalsingh announced that all gatherings for entertainment and concerts are now outlawed, while the public service will operate on a 50 percent ‘rotational basis’, places of worship are asked to operate at 25 percent capacity, and weddings and funerals must be limited to 10 persons.
Today’s reintroduced measures are enforceable from Thursday 22 April and, as is the case with other changes made this month, will run until Sunday 16 May.
Deyalsingh stressed that gyms, bars and food establishments have not been closed and can continue to operate, although he urged persons not to congregate there.
The amendments to the public health ordinance, the health minister explained, were agreed upon at a meting chaired this morning by Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley and which also included new Minister of National Security Fitzgerald Hinds and Minister of Energy and Energy Industries Stuart Young—in his capacity as minister in the office of the prime minister.
The changes within the public service will be overseen by Permanent Secretary Maurice Suite.
“This will have the effect of taking a few tens of thousands of persons off the transportation grid and our offices,” said Deyalsingh. “At this time we are not touching the workplace in the private sector […] but we appeal to the private sector to maintain the vigilance.”
Dr Amery Hinds noted that contact tracing pointed to several cases of infections at churches and bars. As such, Deyalsingh urged persons in church to keep their masks on and head home straight after the service or prayers without congregating.
Hinds (F) said he will meet Commissioner of Police Gary Griffith and other divisional heads of the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service immediately after today’s press conference and urge them ‘to implement and practice best efforts to ensure these measures are enforced’.
One reporter asked the national security minister what he would bring to his new role and suggested that the presence of the Brazilian variant, P1, was linked to illegal immigration.
Hinds (F) countered.
“We are not persuaded that the problem that you identified that we are dealing with necessarily as a result—or exclusively as a result—of illegal migration into Trinidad and Tobago,” said Hinds (F). “And the evidence as I offer in support of that, you have countries like India, United States, Brazil in particular that are severely afflicted by spikes and phenomenal figures in this regard, and they don’t have the problem that we have in terms of illegal immigrants in respect of Venezuelans…
“They don’t have that problem in India and in Brazil and those places and therefore I don’t know if that mini-thesis is accurate.”
Brazil borders Venezuela and, according to UN migration, has taken in over 250,000 Venezuelan migrants, which is more than 10 times the figure in Trinidad and Tobago—albeit Brazil has a population of 211 million.
Deyalsingh was on more solid ground when he tried to explain why the fear of Venezuelan migration affecting our fight against Covid-19 is probably misplaced.
“We keep pushing this narrative that we ought to blame others for our behaviour,” said Deyalsingh, who fingered the lack of compliance for Covid-19 measures by locals instead. “[…] We have one Venezuelan in a hospital bed [and the rest are Trinidad and Tobago citizens]… It is very unfortunate that we try to link our spike in cases to Venezuelans when the facts simply do not lead us to make that conclusion.”
The best way to stave off the virus, as Deyalsingh, Dr Hinds (A), chief medial officer Dr Roshan Parasram, Professor Christine Carrington, and Dr Michelle Trotman reiterated today, remains by: wearing masks, physical distancing, and avoiding congregations.
In April’s 21 days so far, the twin island republic has had 985 positive cases from 12,984 tests with 15 deaths. It is the highest spike since after the General Elections on 10 August, when the country recorded 1,554 cases from roughly 20,000 unique patient tests.
As of this evening, Trinidad and Tobago had 9,216 cases of the virus since the onset of the pandemic from 123,309 tests. There are 1,023 active cases with 157 deaths. There have been 21,231 vaccinations.
It is, the medical professionals stressed, no time for ‘Covid fatigue’. Ministry of Health senior communications officer Al Alexander urged citizens to follow the new three ‘W’s’:
‘Wash your hands, watch your distance from others and wear your mask.’