Caricom leaders discuss impact of COVID-19

Keith Rowley

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad — Caribbean Community (Caricom) leaders met virtually last Friday to discuss the impact of the coronavirus on their economies and populations with some indicating that they are still not in a position to reopen their borders, Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley said here on Saturday.

Rowley, speaking at a news conference, said the leaders met “on this matter of how we relate to the external community and how we consider opening our borders”.

He said countries like St Lucia, Barbados, Grenada are entirely dependent on the borders being open so that their tourism economy can begin to receive visitors.

Dr. Keith Mitchell of Grenada, Mia Mottley of Barbados and Allen Chastanet of Saint Lucia

“The bulk of the conversation had to do with the logistics of treating with persons who would want to come to us to the extent that there are people who want to travel and they come to us, how do we treat with them as we live with the virus and their presence not become a threat to us.

“What can we put in place to allow them to come and be here contributing to the economies, but at the same time not contributing to our demise,” Rowley said.

He told reporters that there were different models considered and that ‘everybody at this point in time is requiring that some element of testing be done, in other words determine who comes to you.

“So either you test before you come and some persons require that you test on arrival, or you come without a test and when you come you must be tested and also there’s the question of quarantine and what happens if there are breaches and if there are failings in that system and so on.

“At the end of that very long conversation their conclusion was that we are not in a position to open our borders fully or at all in some instances.

“For those countries who have opened their borders there are some very strict requirements and they are selective as to who comes in and from where depending on where the virus is raging in different areas,” he said, adding that countries like Trinidad and Tobago “where we are at community spread and where the persons coming to us are likely to come from an area where the virus very prevalent, we still have to maintain that close border.

“So the question of the social distancing, sanitising, wearing of the masks and the close border, these are all our defence shields in the face of a virus which…is not abating, but in fact we are seeing it increasing around the world.”