A police officer speaks with two unidentified men who were found breaching the State of Emergency curfew while along Broadway Street, Arima, last Wednesday.

From the first week of July, if the downward trend in COVID-19 infections continues, weekend curfew hours will revert to 9 pm-5 am.

It is also likely, according to Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley, that the construction sector will reopen for business from June 28. However, the state of emergency and curfew will remain in place.

“The population will see increased movement and exposure from those persons who are in, or associated, with construction ­—the construction sector and its associated businesses—because if we open construction, we have to open hardwares and manufacturing companies like companies that produce paint and doors and so and make sure things operate smoothly,” Dr Rowley said.

Speaking at a COVID-19 media briefing at the Diplomatic Centre, St Ann’s yesterday, the prime minister said 15,000 construction and hardware employees, and 10,000 manufacturing employees have been vaccinated so far.

But while plans were announced to slowly begin re-opening the country on a phased basis, Energy Minister and Minister in the Office of the Prime Minister Stuart Young said the COVID-19 public regulations will likely be extended past July 4.

“We may have to extend beyond July 4. It is very likely we will extend that. That’s the mandatory mask-wearing. That is when you are in a car, you have to wear your mask if there is more than one person,” Young said.

Epidemiologist Dr Avery Hinds and Principal Medical Officer reported slightly decreasing trends of rolling with down to 252 and hospital occupation down to 60 per cent.

“For the last month, lives took paramountcy. Livelihood is going to join. We are taking more risks and therefore we expect greater co-operation, while we source more vaccines and vaccinate more people,” Dr Rowley said.

He said there are enough vaccines to keep the vaccination drive going for the next two weeks, unless new shipments arrive before anticipated, there will be a short period where people will not be able to receive new, first vaccines —only second vaccines.

Dr Rowley said the government expects to receive new shipments of vaccines near the end of July.

“One is our third COVAX shipment (33,600 vaccines), which has been delayed to sometime in July—end of July if there are no further delays,” he said.

“We are also continuing our purchase from China and we are expecting that sometime in July and we are expecting an order similar to the last one or a little bit more and we will wait until we get shipping documentation, confirmation until we tell you more on that.”

He said the government expects those two shipments to bring in another 250,000 doses into the system.

And while Dr Rowley remained confident that additional vaccines will arrive in August from the African Medical Supplies Platform, he was unable to provide definitive updates about possible donations from the United States.

“We have not heard anything more on that so far. We do not know what will come through and I’ll add one more caveat, we don’t know if we will qualify based on what yardstick they will be using to qualify,” he said.

The government’s hope, Dr Rowley said, is that with increased vaccination, the country will begin to open up more, most importantly, culminating with children being able to return to classes in September.

He added that the plan to re-open the country’s borders in the second week of July remains on course.

“We still expect to be able to do that. CAL and the ministries have worked out the arrangements and during the coming week the relevant authorities will decide what the conditions are and we are preparing to have scheduled air service into Trinidad and Tobago and operate a managed border,” he said.

“The open border is not a free for all. It’s a border that will open for activities, but most importantly, there will be scheduled arrangements and persons who are vaccinated—as against who are not vaccinated— would be treated as groups of people with different conditions.”

The Prime Minister admitted that the re-opening of the borders comes with certain risks as the system will have to keep certain threats in mind such as the Delta variant.

Responding to calls to increase social support programmes during the ongoing state of emergency, Dr Rowley defended the system already in place. He said a significant social support system existed even before the pandemic.

“The finances are very, very limited and that’s why we are prioritising it. The state has picked up a huge amount of what needs to be picked up even in a pandemic and now we’ve gone further and done more than we would normally do by providing food on the table because one of the major exercises we have is to provide food, so nobody in Trinidad and Tobago should be able to say they cannot get their hands on a meal,” he said.

As of Saturday morning, according to Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh, 176,849 people had received their first doses of vaccinations, while 39,142 people were fully vaccinated.

The Ministry of Health reported another 330 COVID positive cases and 19 deaths yesterday.