The roll-back measures announced by Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley earlier this month are set to remain in place until October 11.
Addressing the nation two days ahead of the promised date for a review on September 28, Rowley said on Saturday that while he was heartened to hear from medical experts that T&T’s daily infection statistics were improving, he was still inclined to maintain strict public health measures to assist in getting the numbers down even further.
Rowley said while experts have indicated the virus could be with us for the next year and more, a reflection of what has been done so far by local authorities indicated, “By far and large, I would say we have done reasonably well in terms of managing our response.”
He said the best yardstick to be used to measure the success of the State’s response was examining how the country’s health infrastructure had been prepared to provide support in the identification, testing and hospitalisation of those who contracted the virus.
He described as unfortunate the loss of 70 people to the virus, even as the global figures race towards the one millionth mark. Expressing hope that T&T’s death rate would remain as low as possible, he said every life lost was a blow to a family and a loss for the nation.
Rowley said the local narrative could have been much worse were it not for Government’s disciplined and hard-lined approach to reduce public interaction by cutting domestic travel and closing schools, beaches, malls, bars and restaurants.
Revealing that Caribbean territories had been working together to establish a ‘bio bubble’ where infection rates would remain minimal but also facilitate a mixing and mingling of the various citizens so some sense of economic and financial normalcy could be restored, Rowley said following the gains made in the last few weeks, he wanted the population to continue with the prescription that appeared to be working.
He said regional partners had agreed that a rate of 20 infections per day or less was the target that could mean the reopening of borders.
Questioned about the repatriation of citizens who remain stuck abroad, Rowley said while exemptions continue to be granted, the lack of scheduled flights was an issue which is still being sorted out. However, he said priority continued to be given to those domiciled in T&T and who found themselves stranded when the borders were abruptly closed.
Meanwhile, the prime minister was apologetic to citizens who claimed not to have received any responses from the Ministry of National Security as it related to exemption requests.
He said, “That response ought to be there, even if it means saying that we are getting to you but not immediately.”
Pressed to comment on T&T’s porous borders following claims this was an ongoing issue as possibly infected immigrants continued to slip in, Rowley said it was incorrect to say T&T had unchecked migration occurring.
He said while there were constant attempts by people to illegally enter T&T, he applauded the law enforcement agencies for implementing established checks and balances which had led to the apprehension and repatriation of immigrants.
Box: PM to make statement soon on DSS scheme
Questioned about concerns that members of the TTPS and the TTDF were said to be part of the Drugs Sou Sou (DSS) pyramid scheme which had been stopped by the police last week and had led to $22 million in cash being seized, Rowley said he would make a statement sometime in the near future as he was still learning about the legality and illegality of the process.
“I am still in the learning phase and on Monday, there is an important meeting with National Security and I expect to hear more about it and be able to respond better after that,” he said. (See Page 6)