by Sampson Nanton

Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley has announced a change in the number of people who can congregate in groups, from 25 to 10.

He made the announcement at a news conference Friday, following 13 new cases in two days.

The prime minister said the government and health officials were making the change in an effort to reduce the spread of the virus.

Hours before his announcement, the Ministry of Health announced five new cases, two of which required investigation to determine the origins.

The ministry announce eight new cases on Thursday.

He said the government will maintain the protocols of the numbers at funerals, indoors and at churches.

He said the government will also ask the public service to reduce the number of public servants who are out at one time by having them come to work alphabetically and rotate them by days for the next 14 days.

The prime minister added that the aim is to reduce the population of people out in the streets and among themselves by 50 per cent.

He said the government is very concerned about where the known people got infections, being in schools and in bars, adding that the government got information on another school that has to be shut down because contact-tracing led to it.

He advised that the government will not stop the SEA examinations at this time, but added that if the trend of cases rising continues, the government will act.

Dr Rowley said the government will also act on bars and restaurants if social distancing guidelines are not adhered to.

“We have found direct links about people infected in bars and we are keeping bars and restaurants under very close watch for the next few days,” he said.

The prime minister advised that the government is also keeping public transportation under watch and will act if the current rend continues over the next 72 hours or so.

Regarding people who are seeking exemptions from the Ministry of National Security, he said that as of July 29, a total of 5,580 people sought exemptions to leave the country.

Of those, 3,556 were granted exemptions to leave and are already making travel arrangements to do so. A further 2,024 are still in the pipeline.

He said the number of those who applied to enter T&T as of July 29, was 5,539.

Of that number, exemptions were granted to 2,250 and 3,289 are awaiting exemptions.

He debunked the claim by Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar that 10,000 people were being locked out of the country, suggesting that the tallied the numbers of those wishing to leave and those wishing to come in before she came up with that figure.