Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago Dr Keith Rowley says he was formally informed by his Jamaican counterpart, Andrew Holness, of his government’s intent to impose a travel ban due to the spiralling coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak there.
Rowley, during an address to the nation on Monday (May 3), said he received a “courtesy” phone call from Holness on Sunday. Concerns reportedly swirl around Trinidad’s confirmation of the P1 Brazilian COVID-19 variant.
“I was talking with one of my CARICOM colleagues yesterday (Sunday) and yesterday the Prime Minister of Jamaica gave me the courtesy of informing me that sometime today (Monday), Jamaica will put Trinidad and Tobago on a restriction list of countries from which persons cannot travel,” Rowley said, responding to questions from journalists.
“Largely because of our acknowledgement of the P1 [variant] here,” he added.
Neither Jamaica’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs nor the Jamaica House-based Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) has released a statement confirming the travel ban at the time of publication.
In his address, Rowley, who also doubles as CARICOM Chairman, seemingly implied that the Brazilian variant infiltrated Trinidad via Guyanese travellers who need not have visas to enter the twin-island republic thanks to CARICOM inter-regional travel privileges.
He also stressed not casting blame on Venezuelan migrants as the source of the now raging Brazilan variant in Trinidad.
“Now, we in Trinidad and Tobago, are in a peculiar geographic location. This virus is raging in Brazil; Brazil has a border with Guyana, and Guyana is part of CARICOM. People are coming from Guyana by way of CARICOM arrangements into Trinidad and Tobago,” he said.
“We should not take a lot of comfort in the fact that if we focus on the [Venezuelan] migrants, that we’d be given a pass for the rest of our population. All over the world, there is this virus raging among populations of humans without Venezuelans. Yes, migrants are a threat to us but I don’t want the national population of non-Venezuelans to get a pass by saying ‘Is de border’—it is not only that. In fact, statistically, that is a small part of the problem,” Rowley argued further.
If Holness is to announce a ban, he is most likely to declare the measure in Parliament today. The Jamaican PM will also likely indicate the way forward as current curfew restrictions expire on Saturday, May 8.
In the meantime, authorities in Trinidad and Tobago confirmed 158 new coronavirus cases in the last 24 hours, bringing the islands’ cumulative total to 11,471.
National epidemiologist Dr Avery Hinds, in his presentation on Monday, warned that at its current rate of infectivity, Trinidad could be staring down 10,000 active cases in three weeks.