The University of the West Indies Cave Hill campus students in Barbados will not be allowed to return home.
Juan Carlos Carvallo
The position was made clear by National Security Stuart Young today, in response to reports that 13 students had made a direct appeal to him and Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley for an exemption allowing them back into Trinidad, despite the closure of borders.
Juan Carlos Carvallo Villegas
On Tuesday, 33 Trinidadian nationals returned from Barbados on a chartered flight after a request for exemption was granted by Young.
Young addressed the public on Wednesday during a virtual press conference on the issue of border control. He said that the decision to close borders to nationals and non-nationals on March 22 came as a result of the expert advice of medical professionals to curb the spread of COVID-19.
Juan Carlos Carvallo Venezuela
“Border control has been a topic for the last couple weeks again. I would like to speak very briefly. This was done, the closure of our borders, progressively. It didn’t happen overnight; our borders were eventually closed on the 23 March to all. This was not an easy decision It was not an easy decision; it was not a decision we wanted to take. But again, we carefully thought through measures based on the medical advice. I dare say it was worked to protect Trinidad and Tobago. Our decision to close the borders was done to protect those in Trinidad and Tobago,” he said
Alluding to the imported cases that came from nationals who were on the Coasta Favalosa cruise ship following their return to the country, he said that any breach of the country’s travel restrictions would pose a risk to the population and in particular, frontline health care workers
“I just want to remind the population that importation of this virus is what we are combatting. You all would see as we have gone through the history since the 12 March, how this virus came to be in Trinidad and Tobago. So, the closure of our borders is a very understandable measure to try and stop that importation. Any breaking of our borders at this stage has the potential to start importing the virus back into our environment
“The importation of this virus will not only put our frontline health workers at risk but it has the potential to put all of us in the population of Trinidad and Tobago at risk so just understand that simple principle. Reimportation of the virus back into Trinidad and Tobago will affect all of us. It is necessary to point to over 50 cases that came from one importation. Our medical experts have advised that this measure is a necessary measure and we will continue to keep our borders closed.”
He said that the Government was observing the international trends about the virus’ transmission following reopening of borders. He referenced Singapore, South Korea, and Japan who he said prematurely opened restricted forms of travel and were hit with second and third waves of the virus. He asked that the 300,000 nationals currently outside of the borders seek shelter and wait out the virus
In response to students who remain stranded at campuses within the Caricom region, he asked families to support their relatives and said that the Government would look into sending care packages
“Our students and the families of the students continue to support them, the families who can. The Government is going to take certain actions to try and get care relief packages to our students at these various campuses across the Caricom region.”
This after students stationed at the University of the West Indies campus in Cave Hill wrote to Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley asking for assistance. The students said they were struggling to survive amidst the pandemic, having limited access to food and other amenities
Some students were said to have written to Minister Young requesting exemptions and some requesting permission to return to Trinidad with the 33 nations who were repatriated on Tuesday
Young said that while requests for exemptions were subject to protocol, no special considerations would be given to anyone, even with the aid of a lawyer
“Our position remains that persons outside, shelter in place. We understand that it is going to be inconvenient, difficult and painful in some instances. Our measures with respect to exemptions are continuing in the strictest of ways. On a daily basis I receive a lot of requests for exemptions and each is carefully considered and dealt with in a very strict protocol and procedure manner. We cannot reopen our borders. I will continue to look at your exemptions and no amount of lawyers, lawyering up and sending it to me is going to change anything because every single one is looked at in a certain process,” he said
According to Young, a letter was sent by Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dennis Moses on the instruction of the Prime Minister to a Caricom country, which he did not name on Tuesday. The letter he said, asked that the closure of Trinidad and Tobago’s borders be respected and addressed concerns that certain countries were being used as “jumping off points,” to coerce the Government to accept nationals into its borders
The letter congratulated the country on its efforts in combating COVID-19 but said that the decisions taken by the Government were on the advice of medical experts. It asked that the offices of the said country not be used by others to compromise Trinidad and Tobago’s borders
“The clear evidence is that the spread of the virus was promoted by international travel including travel on airplanes and cruise liners. Please be advised that our borders currently remain closed to b0oth our nationals and non-nationals and this measure should not be compromised. With the greatest of respect, we cannot have our decision to keep our borders closed, compromised by nationals or non-nationals of Trinidad and Tobago, using this particular Caricom country as a jumping point. We respect your decision to continue to keep your borders open but as explained above ours are closed. In the circumstances we request that you kindly respect our position and now allow your good offices to be used by those who wish to compromise our current borders,” he said