3125153
National Security Minister Fitzgerald Hinds.

Gail Alexander

With the Indian variant of the COVID-19 virus now detected in neighbouring Venezuela, the Government has assured that plans and operations to improve border security have been ongoing and are well underway.

National Security Minister Fitzgerald Hinds gave the assurance Monday night when asked about border security.

It came after Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro on Monday confirmed the arrival of the Indian variant in Venezuela according to AlbertoNews. The cases entered through the southwest state of Apure near the border with Colombia. Five women who returned to Venezuela from studies in Colombia tested positive for the Indian variant.

The Indian variant has killed over 303,720 people in India and caused over 23 million cases there.

T&T has only detected cases of the UK variant and the Brazilian variant – the latter first found in a sample from a Venezuelan migrant in April.

T&T’s borders have been closed since March 2020.

On the Indian variant arriving “next door”, Hinds said all countries face the risk of virus spread as a result of movement.

“That’s always a risk. All countries are now dealing with it. T&T’s no different. Once this virus and variants exist they can be transmitted from human to human, they’re popping up all over,” he said.

Hinds said T&T, as an island nation, is beset with many unofficial ports of entry but without clear scientific proof, one couldn’t say for certain that Venezuelan migrants are a virus source.

“But we’re paying attention to all borders,” he assured.

‘’We identified 15 key areas to which we’re applying consideration as intelligence information advises those are the most active. We’ve mounted intelligence-driven border protection operations aimed at stamping out as far as possible, illegal entry by others,’’ he said.

“As we acquire new naval assets we’ll become more effective at protecting borders. We continue operating a radar system identifying approaching vessels/aircraft, plus patrols along coasts at strategic points. As we move, those who want to beat the system also move, but we’re aware of this and tackling it head on,’’ he said.

“It’s my prayer we’re able to get the vaccines we’ve been fighting to obtain and run an aggressive vaccine programme as it’s clear that’s the real solution to this serious problem of virus spread,’’ he said.

Hinds replied about the Venezuelan fishing vessels which continue entering T&T despite border closure.

Hinds said authorities recently reintroduced marine coastal and riverine patrols.

“I’m head-oned given our resources and information we’re tackling this problem. We’ve intercepted vessels several times with people attempting to enter. It’s not just people, it’s about illegal materials including firearms, dangerous drugs. But it’s dynamic, a work in progress,’’ he said.