Members of the public move about on High Street, San Fernando, on Thursday. Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley has noted that many of them have not been taking the COVID-19 protocols seriously enough.

After the surge of COVID-19 cluster cases, law enforcement must act to ensure that people—including political parties—comply with the COVID restrictions now. And southerners are flouting the COVID restrictions the most, says Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley.

Speaking at yesterday’s media briefing on the increased number of COVID cases, now totalling 169, Rowley said the Public Health ordinance requires law enforcement to ensure things are done properly. If people congregate in larger numbers, including parties, then law enforcement must act “…not as punishment but as preservation to protect the public.”

Rowley said the same applied to bars and restaurants.

“They’re open and we expected serious law enforcement around then and I’m to wonder why, given the level of lack of co-operation some people demonstrated, I’m not seeing the odd person dragged before the court and paying fines. I’m doing my job as Prime Minister and I expected others will do their jobs also,” he said.

“If people feel this is a joke they must be made to understand it’s not a joke and no dare and double-dare, it’s not machismo—it’s common sense.”

He said the state will ensure there is more active law enforcement on the situation to enforce the Public Health Ordinance and people were expected to obey and be sensible.

“If not you’ll fall afoul (of the law) and we expect the law will be enforced against you,’’ he said.

Rowley lamented that Southerners particularly aren’t taking the COVID matter seriously. He said the impression is that it’s a problem in another part of T&T and it’s another political side’s issue.

“That will get T&T in serious trouble, this virus doesn’t respect people, race, creed, colour, class or politician—they need to get on board,” he said.

He lamented people who said there’s no COVID in T&T and Government was trying to oppress people.

Rowley also appealed for co-operation on contact tracing, which he said is to protect “the life of you and yours—the information shared has to do with life and death. No group is exempt from this virus.”

Rowley clarified figures on the number of nationals who received exemptions to leave and enter T&T. He said 5,580 got permission to leave and 5,539 had applied to enter as at July 29. He said entry exemptions were granted to 2,250 and 3,389 are awaiting, adding Government was managing this and “bringing them in by the hundreds.”

On returning nationals, he said first preference was for those who live in T&T and were ill or had small children. So far, he said T&T has allowed in 538 people from the US and 417 from cruise ships.