Seventy Trinidadians stuck in Venezuela will have to fend for themselves while seeking to return home now that several countries have closed their borders and some airlines have stopped flying to various destinations due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
This was the word from National Security Minister Stuart Young at yesterday’s post-Cabinet press conference dealing with the COVID-19 fallout, as he noted here is nothing the Government can do for the nationals, who are stuck in the popular tourist destination of Margarita.
Young said that like T&T, several countries have shut their borders as they try to control the spread of COVID-19.
As a result, he said a group of locals in the tourist isle of Margarita are stuck as they cannot get flights out of the country. Young said many countries, including Argentina and Guyana, have banned flights.
He said British Airways had also decided to stop flights between the UK and T&T from March 26. He said these are not situations that the Government can reverse, but noted they could reach out to Caricom neighbours asking those governments to care for T&T nationals in their countries.
“I am being bombarded on my phone now by some members of the media, saying that there are 70 Trinidadians in Margarita, saying that the Government has abandoned them,” Young said.
“I am emphasising, there is nothing the Government can do in those circumstances, unfortunately. It is a live situation. It continues to evolve.
“We will do as much as we can but within the parameters of sovereign countries taking decisions to close their borders. So, unfortunately, persons stuck in countries where there are no international flights in or out anymore, there is nothing we can do.”
Guardian Media also learned yesterday that three T&T nationals are also still stuck in Guadeloupe after getting off a cruise ship which was refused entry to Martinique. A group of 68 nationals who were also on that ship returned home on Wednesday and they are now quarantined in Balandra. The day before that, two women who were also on the same cruise returned home and were immediately quarantined for treatment after they tested positive on the flight back from Guadeloupe.
In recent days, Columbia and Brazil closed their borders with Venezuela, which has already recorded 42 cases of COVID-19. International media reports suggest that Venezuela could be in for a crisis, as its health system has already collapsed under the severe socio-economic and political turmoil it has suffered since the drastic reduction in oil prices. China has since provided 4,000 diagnostic kits to test for infections there, Reuters reported.
Although T&T has closed its borders, Young said cargo vessels are still free to come. However, crew members are not allowed to come on land. He said there are mechanisms to get cargo off the vessels.
Despite the containment measures in place, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley said the number of infected cases could increase in the coming weeks. He added that no matter what happens, they must ensure that the number of infections does not overburden the healthcare system.