PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, Monday March 16, 2020 – Trinidad and Tobago will not allow anyone other than its nationals to enter the country – except under exceptional circumstances – for the next two weeks, while bars and schools will be closed, as the country seeks to contain the spread of the novel Coronavirus (COVID-19).
As of this morning, there were four confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the twin-island republic, all of which health officials say were imported cases. And the total number of COVID-19 cases and deaths outside China, where the outbreak began, has overtaken the total number of cases in that East Asian country. The World Health Organization said today there were 81,077 confirmed cases and 3,218 deaths in China and 86,434 confirmed cases and 3,388 deaths in 151 other countries.
“We have to isolate ourselves from the supply, the source of the virus outside of Trinidad and Tobago,” Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley said today at a post-Cabinet press briefing where he announced the measures being taken by his government. “We are in a crisis. We are in an emergency.”
He said the Ministry of Health and Ministry of National Security would determine who would be exempt from the ban, as needed, but they would likely include health personnel and employees of the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA).
“Other than that, we are basically disconnecting ourselves from the international community for the next 14 days,” Rowley said.
Among other measures taking effect are the closure of all public schools until the new term begins on April 20 – a measure which private schools are being asked to comply with; and the closure of bars for the next 14 days.
“Persons operating bars where people gather to drink and socialize, because our objective to deny the virus, connections from person to person, we are instructing that gatherings beyond 25 be avoided at all costs, except under unavoidable circumstances,” the Prime Minister said.
While restaurants can remain open, only takeaway service will be allowed as no-inhouse dining is being banned.
Meantime, the Ministry of Health has taken the official decision to institute two parallel health care systems.
One public health system will focus on addressing confirmed cases of COVID-19. The Caura Hospital and the Couva Hospital and Multi-Training Facility will be used for this purpose and the public is encouraged to access the standard public health care services via the other existing health facilities.
Additionally, Public Health Inspectors will visit various public locations within communities where large gatherings are common to advise key representatives on the necessary health care precautions.
Members of the public are also asked to take personal hygiene measures to protect themselves and their loved ones from COVID-19.
Apart from Trinidad and Tobago, countries in the Caribbean that have confirmed COVID-19 cases are: Antigua and Barbuda, Aruba, the Bahamas, Cayman Islands, Cuba, Curaçao, the Dominican Republic, French Guiana, Guadeloupe, Guyana, Martinique, Saint Barthelemy, St Lucia, Saint Martin, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Puerto Rico, Suriname and Venezuela.