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Piarco International Airport.

Renuka Singh

A private get together among a single shift of Immigration officers did not trigger the outbreak currently crippling the division.

That is the view of immigration officers who are now saying that the get together is being used as a “smoke screen” to distract from the real issues.

They say that the Ministry of National Security granted exemptions to nurses from India to come in and work at a private health clinic in south Trinidad and that those nurses presented a fake PCR negative test.

According to information received by Guardian Media, one of the nurses has since been admitted to the UWI Debe Campus.

The Immigration officers also believe that a second patient, who tested positive for the UK variant, also presented a negative PCR test and was allowed into the country after interacting with Immigration personnel.

Immigration officers, speaking to Guardian Media under the condition of anonymity yesterday, said while National Security was focusing on the shift of officers gathering to share cake, more shifts are exposed by incoming passengers and limited PPE.

They claim that National Security was using the Valentine’s Day get together to hold them responsible for the outbreak at immigration division, but the group said that is simply not true.

Guardian Media learned that the nurses deplaned at the southern side of the old Piarco airport, which is reserved for private flights. The Indian nurses, they say, came in on a private chartered plane, with a negative PCR and an exemption letter to enter the country.

They provided a timeline which showed that the Valentine’s Day get together had nothing to do with the spread among staff.

The shift that was first infected and had the most infections came from the crew that worked on February 13 and 14. The shift that hosted the get together came in at 2 pm on Valentine’s Day.

The immigration officers claim that there was no contact between the shifts on that day.

The female officer who tested positive reported it on February 17 and was asked to remain at home along with her entire shift.

The shift that held the Valentines day party was off duty on February 17 and 18.

The crews claim that between Valentines day and February 17, there was no contact between the two shifts.

The shift with the most infections, they say, had no contact with the shift that had the party.

In fact the only person to test positive from the Valentine’s Day party, was on leave on the day and tested positive some two weeks after.

Despite reassurances from the Minister of National Security that immigration is functioning at Piarco, Guardian Media learned that while officers from the passport offices have been asked to volunteer for the frontline, no one did.

A single officer was on duty yesterday morning and four more were deployed from Port-of-Spain to man the Airport yesterday afternoon.

Another seven officers in the document lab were exposed and the concern amond staff is that they interact with everyone, further exposing more staff.

The Immigration officers have been mandated to get a stamp daily at the document lab and are afraid to now.

The lab staff have refused to get tested, saying that they haven’t interacted with any of the shifts but that is not absolutely correct.

The positive COVID-19 cases would have interacted with them to retrieve the stamps on a daily basis.

Shift B is the group with the most cases, which is also not the shift that shared the cake in the now viral photograph.

The first six cases came from another shift.

Chief Immigration Officer Charmaine Gandhi-Andrews left yesterday for the United States on vacation.

She did not respond to questions or calls before her exit.

Guardian Media contacted the private clinic and on both occasions was told that there was no one available to speak to the media.

Guardian Media found one director of the company, who said that his clinic “may have brought in nurses, but I’d rather not continue this conversation”.

He also said that he did not know anything about nurses testing positive for the virus.

Guardian Media wrote and called both the Minister of National Security Stuart Young and acting Chief Immigration Officer Derek Craigwell, while Young did not respond at all, Craigwell texted that he would return the call.

He did not.