Saturday 5 December, 2020

Repatriation of nationals to slow down as T&T's COVID-19 cases rise

Repatriation of Trinidad and Tobago nationals currently stranded abroad will slow down given the rising number of COVID-19 cases in the country.

Speaking at a media conference today, Minister of National Security Stuart Young indicated that the granting of exemptions and repatriation of nationals as the country’s borders remain closed, was always dependent on two factors – the capacity of the state quarantine facilities and the state-supervised quarantine facilities.

Given the recent sudden increase in cases in the country – Trinidad and Tobago has recorded over 350 cases of COVID-19 in just under a month – resources have been reallocated to ease pressure on the parallel health care system.

Two state quarantine facilities previously used to quarantine returned nationals, the National Racquet Centre in Tacarigua and the UWI Debe Campus, are now being used as step-down facilities for COVID-19-postive patients who are only mildly ill and awaiting two negative tests before they can be discharged. These decanting measures are implemented to ensure there is sufficient space at the hospitals where COVID-19 patients are being treated.

Now that these facilities, and others, are being used as step-down facilities, the number of quarantine facilities available for repatriated nationals to serve their 14-day quarantine period has been reduced.

Young said: “We are continuing to make sure our healthcare system can manage the positive cases. So right now, we are going to step back a little bit from the grant of exemptions, but we will continue to manage it. We will utilize the space we can in close consultation with the Ministry of Health to make sure that no system is overwhelmed - either the quarantine [system] or the ability to provide the parallel healthcare system.”

Minister Young indicated that there are still requests for exemptions coming in to the government of Trinidad and Tobago.

In fact, he said he was surprised to note that the number of requests from certain countries had risen.

He cited an increase in the number of requests from countries like Canada and the United Kingdom, where the government had already granted exemptions and “done some clearing”.

Minister Young said it was confirmed that some of these exemption requests are coming from nationals who have been residing abroad, and who are now trying to “pack up their life there” and return to Trinidad and Tobago.

Young assured that exemptions will continue to be granted based on a priority system – namely those who went out for temporary vacations, the elderly, the sick and those with small children.

Minister Young said, “We will have to manage it carefully. As we've always said, the closure of the borders is to protect the population here in Trinidad and that is what we'll continue to do to make sure our system isn't overwhelmed.”

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