T&T nationals aboard Royal Caribbean’s Vision of the Seas mingle recently.

National Security Minister Stuart Young says he is still awaiting a response from Royal Caribbean on whether it will allow Government to use the Vision of the Seas to quarantine over 300 Trini nationals on board for 14 days when they arrive in T&T waters.

Young gave the update during yesterday’s Ministry of Health’s COVID-19 virtual media briefing. Young first announced the sea quarantine plan on Sunday, saying a quarantine in T&T waters would allow health officials to monitor and test returning nationals and on completion, they would be allowed to return directly to their families.

The Royal Caribbean has been repatriating its employees in the Caribbean, with its most recent drop off being done in St Vincent.

Meanwhile, on reports that 29 St Vincent crew members from the ship had tested positive for COVID-19, Chief Medical Officer Dr Roshan Parasram said those results were from serological tests and not from Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) tests, which he said is the gold standard in testing.

He said he had been in contact with the CMO for St Vincent as they await the PCR test results on that group as the serological testing is known to about 50 to 60 per cent accurate.

“Let us wait for the results of the PCR and then we can make a definitive judgement or hypothesis based on those results which are the gold standard,” Parasram said.

Young also again assured the thousands of nationals stranded abroad that they will be allowed to return home.

“All nationals who are not in T&T and want to return, you will be permitted to return, as we’ve said and as I will repeat here this morning, what we are doing is very carefully managing the process and believe you me, we do understand the difficulties that each and every one of you nationals face who are outside of T&T wanting to return as well as your families and what it is you are going through,” Young said.

However, he said while the ministry is granting exemptions, it cannot allow those nationals who have the means to charter their own flights to take precedence over less fortunate citizens.

“From a fairness point of view, that can’t be the test at this stage because someone says they can charter a plane to fly in will get precedence over someone who is a more needy case,” Young said.

He said the exemptions are being managed in a way that does cause the health care system to be overwhelmed.

Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh also advised citizens to continue to practice personal hygiene and wear face masks, as he says the World Health Organisation (WHO) believes the world is still in the first wave of the virus.

SDeyalsingh said while T&T has no new positive cases, the global numbers have risen to 5.7 million.

He said while the Government cannot legislate the wearing of masks and practising personal hygiene, it continues to use strong moral suasion to urge the public to comply.

He said there are currently 85 nationals in quarantine, five at the Cascadia Hotel, 21 at the Tacarigua Racket Centre and 59 at the University of the West Indies Debe campus.