Trinidad and Tobago government declares state of emergency

Dr Maryam Abdool-Richards

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad  – The Trinidad and Tobago government on Saturday declared a State of Emergency (SOE) and an eight-hour curfew as a ‘scared population” looked to the authorities to implement new measures to deal with a rising number of deaths and infections from the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Prime Minister Dr. Keith Rowley, speaking at the weekly news conference of the Ministry of Health, said that the SOE will go into effect at midnight and that the curfew will be from 9.00 pm to 5.00 am (local time) daily.

“The state of emergency will remain in place until it has expired or continued,” he said, noting that under the law, the SOE remains in place for 90 days in the first instance.

“If you don’t have to be out for exempted reasons please stay home,” Rowley said, as the country reported 5, 558 active cases of the virus and 276 deaths.

Rowley told reporters that it has now dawned on the population that the virus should be taken very seriously, saying he also come to the realization that he is seeing a “population that is scared”.

Keith Rowley

“I am sorry that it has come to coffins and faces of dead people for us to realize that we are in and have always been in a very difficult place. Before we were only dealing with numbers, but I think the population is at the stage now where the numbers are being seen to be of people even known to you.”

Rowley said that is a frightening situation, warning if the situation is allowed to multiply “very soon we will be happy when it is only 21 because it could go to a number where 21 is a great improvement…because the more we are allowing ourselves to be infected, that population of infected people would generate a large percentage of sick people and will generate a larger population of dead people.”

He  said that while it is not feasible to shut down a country “much as we would like everybody to be home” the authorities are allowing for workers in essential services to function so as to prevent the rest of the population from engaging in buying things in excess thereby causing a panic.

Rowley said places like gas stations, pharmacies, supermarkets, would be allowed to operate within the nine-hour 12 hour period,” but the other areas we will shut down completely”.

Rowley said that the government had tried “very hard” to stay away from imposing the SOE and the curfew, but reminded the population that “virtually every country in the world” is now experiencing a new wave of the pandemic.

“I am simply appealing to the population to cooperate. You have been known to cooperate,” he said.

Rowley also sought to dismiss reports that Trinidad and Tobago was not able to acquire vaccines to deal with the pandemic, insisting that the situation is a worldwide issue and that even some Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries had gone outside the World Health Organization (WHO) approved vaccines to purchase the product.

He insisted that Trinidad and Tobago would continue to be guided by the WHO and appealed to the population to get vaccinated and help the country achieve herd immunity.

Earlier, Epidemiologist, Dr. Avery Hinds told reporters that the number of COVID-19 cases were continuing to show “an upward trend” and that health authorities were worried about that situation and its effect on the parallel health care system.

Principal Medical Officer at the Ministry of Health, Dr Maryam Abdool-Richards, said that the seven hospital across the country were now having an average of 380 admissions for the last seven days.