Two students in Canada who want to come home for Christmas are pleading with the government to revisit its criteria for citizens to re-enter the country because the current system is not working effectively.
The students said the Ministry of National Security needs to establish a direct mode of communication with stranded citizens and disseminate clear and timely information to them about re-entry requirements and repatriation flight schedules.
The students who requested anonymity for fear of victimisation said the PCR negative test requirement is only making the situation more difficult for stranded nationals.
At a press conference last month on November 7, National Security Minister Stuart Young said individuals entering Trinidad and Tobago must have a negative PCR test done two days before their arrival. He said they would be kept in state quarantine facilities for seven days and released only if they test negative after the sixth day in quarantine.
But both students have received exemptions from the ministry and are hoping that their names on a repatriation flight on December 12. One of the students graduated from the University of Guelph in June, but could not return home because the borders were closed in March.
She got a part-time job, rented for a year, and is now staying with a friend. Eventually, she got on to a repatriation flight about two weeks ago, but she could not get the PCR test done in time.
“Since then it has just been impossible to get in touch with anyone from the ministry. I’ve been sending emails just asking where do we go from here. I don’t think they (the government) are doing a very good job right now of taking care of the citizens who are stranded. It kind of seems to me that it is not a priority at all and I understand there are a lot of things going on and there are a lot of priorities as well.”
The other student who is in her final year at George Brown College said she was supposed to have returned home in April.
She said the ministry is also aware that she suffers from refractory chronic migraine and has to have a medical procedure done every six months.
“This involves injecting medication into my scalp. I could only get this done back home because here it’s too expensive.”
While waiting for a repatriation flight, she has also been working. “The whole wanting to get a PCR test done in three days is hard unless you have money. The average test here takes five business days unless you pay between $200 to $500 Canadian to get the tests back quickly.”
Due to the difficulty in contacting the ministry for information, she said she now depends on her mother who is in Trinidad to call the ministry to get information.
“I think they need to reassess that 72-hour test because some people are not in that financial situation to get that test back ASAP. And they are not accepting the rapid test, so they are in a way forcing people to stay stranded here.”
Although they are uncertain whether their names would be on the December 12 repatriation flight list, the students have booked an appointment to have the PCR test done on December 9 at 6 pm.
Minister Young has gone on record to state that 13, 042 nationals and residents had applied to re-enter the island, and 7, 204 exemptions had been granted, which would have included obtaining a PCR test.