Pupils preparing for the Secondary Entrance Assessment (SEA) examination will do their work at home from today until the August 20 test – and bars and restaurants are now the biggest COVID-19 risk.
Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley yesterday announced the developments as COVID-19 cases rose by five to 199.
And he’s made a special appeal to the police for enforcement of the law regarding bars and restaurants.
“I want to see the laws enforced to the limit!” he declared.
Ministry of Health authorities yesterday revealed that a “fair number” of super-spreading was noted among people who had contracted infections in two or three bars and had spread it to an unrelated group.
Rowley said what T&T did n the beginning of the pandemic was still serving the country well and the virus wasn’t raging out of control. He said the contacts of the recent cases have been found, others were being traced and he didn’t want panic reactions.
He said f it comes to a point where the risk requires certain other decisions and more needs to be done, “then we’ll make those decisions – but we’re not there now.”
But he said some things have increased risk and in the monitoring schools after SEA students went out to classes, it has been noted nine children had the virus – including four from the SEA group and five others.
“We don’t want to live with that as a high-risk area even though we want to get the exam done,” Rowley added.
Government and health experts concluded the SEA students shouldn’t continue going to school to do their preparations.
“We decided to discontinue that at this stage from (today),” the PM said.
He said it was expected the pupils will now do their preparations at home. Rowley appealed for parents to help their charges prepare over the next two weeks, adding Government is still committed to having the exam on August 20.
“Let’s hold the line to that test,” he said.
But if there’s an explosion of cases ahead the Government would have to react, he added.
Rowley also said there would be no change on the planned reopening of schools in the first week of September but admitted they will be opened with some element of risk management.
“We’ll monitor it for another two weeks and based on what comes up, then we’ll confirm that date or review for change. But for now, we’ll leave it the way it is. If the risk is too much, we’ll adjust accordingly.”
Rowley said he was also a little disappointed at the T&T Unified Teachers’ Association’s (TTUTA) call to teachers not to report for work before yesterday’s decision.
“When we say we’re in this together, we mean everybody and all decisions are made for all. But it’s not helpful if people in leadership positions won’t accept what Trinidad and Tobago is doing as they want to protect themselves better,” he noted.
He asked what would happen if other groups like nurses say the same.
“Then all fall down. This ‘My-Way-Or-The-Highway’ position derails our effort. Everyone in Trinidad and Tobago is exposed to some risk so no one should say they won’t take ‘risk’ and stay away from schools.’’
Bar limes creating
The Prime Minister also noted that Public Service numbers are being rotated to control exposure to the virus. The private sector, he said, has also been very co-operative with adjustments and Government isn’t seeing increased infections there.
However, he noted, “The biggest risk we’re facing now is from our liming and drinking friends, those eating out and in restaurants and bars. We have instances of tracing taking us to those locations.
“Bars and restaurants remain a threat. We’re doubling up on our daily monitoring of them. This morning I spoke to the National Security Minister to speak to the Police Commissioner to enforce the law – I want to see the laws enforced to the limit! There’s no replacement model for this. Protection remains in law being enforced.”
He noted the “irresponsible minority” in bars and people going to parties and being irresponsible threatened national well-being.
“All that’s required is being responsible. If you’re going for a drink be alert to who’s close to you. If you’re in a crowd of more than 10, you’re breaking the law,” he said.
Rowley said the last lockdown cost billions and if a lockdown had to be returned to that money isn’t available.
“Jobs we saved in that lockdown, may not be salvageable in another,” he said.
He said if people wore masks and didn’t congregate they’d personally contribute to halting the virus’ spread.