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Rowley looking to reopen T&T borders

Rowley looking to reopen T&T borders
Dr Keith Rowley (FILE)

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PORT OF SPAIN – The Trinidad and Tobago government on Saturday said it hoped to re-open the borders within the next four to six weeks as the country acquired more vaccines to curb the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic that has so far killed 556 and infected 25 801 others here.

Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley, speaking at a news conference here said that discussions would be held with officials of the state-owned Caribbean Airlines (CAL) regarding the resumption of scheduled flights from the country’s two main international airports.

The airline was virtually grounded since the borders were closed in March last year.

“Just as we were in mid-March (this year) to do something about the border closure, we had that discussion yesterday and I hope to get a better result this time,” Rowley said, noting that a team, including the ministers of health and national security and CAL representatives will meet next week.

“In the coming days, probably on Tuesday, the team….would meet with Caribbean Airlines because it is the government’s position that within the next four to six weeks we would do away with the border closure arrangement and exemption system because as we vaccinate and as vaccination has been accelerated in North America in particular, the situation is different now.

“The populations of North America and the Caribbean can now more easily mix and we are better able to manage people coming into the country and I look forward to the day when nobody will have to ask permission to come home,” Rowley said.

He said entry would be based on persons qualifying “to get in under certain circumstances which are your responsibility and not for the government to tell you nay or yeah and those details will come to you in the next few days.

“By the end of next week you will get the clear details as to what the open airport will mean and Caribbean Airlines will begin scheduled flights and persons coming into the country should be of the same ilk as to those who are coming to us from outside …but there will be controls and there will be categorisation of your condition.

“I say no more on that today except to indicate that we are close to the point of removing the exemption border closure arrangement and of course removing the tax payer from being responsible for funding Caribbean Airlines 100 per cent while they don’t fly. Hopefully that will change very soon,” Rowley said.

He told reporters that the lockdown, which included a state of emergency and a curfew was “working well” and in this regard, there would be adjustments for June. The curfews on the weekend will now begin at 7 p.m., two hours earlier, until 5 am.

“That is how it will be for the month of June. Weekends are to be contributed to our efforts and during the day time it is not a free up party because there is no curfew on the day time. The order is to stay away unless you are categorised to come out, and that means you come out to work hugely aware of the need to work during a pandemic.

“It is our intention to vaccinate and operate. Going forward from next week you will be encouraged to vaccinate and operate and in order to do that the Ministry of Health will have specific programmes interfacing with the private sector,” he said, urging the private sector to get its members vaccinated.

During the news conference, Rowley said it was the intention of the government to have a fully vaccination programme in place over the next 12 weeks, as the country acquired vaccines from the African union platform, COVAX and the United States. The first target is half a million people. (CMC)