Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley is maintaining T&T will not open its borders to allow nationals stranded outside to return home, saying they could expose the entire country to a bigger threat of exposure to COVID-19.
His comments came hours after the Opposition threatened to take the Government to court to get a “Flight of Mercy” for 33 of 35 nationals now stranded in Barbados after travelling there from the UK.
Speaking during yesterday’s post-Cabinet media briefing at the Diplomatic Centre, St Ann’s, Rowley said the closure of the borders last Sunday was instituted to separate ourselves from the rest of the world and the virus, admitting such a move resulted in consequences mainly with our nationals outside.
“The consequences are not pleasant. They are the best arrangement for saving lives. If that is not enough to some people, then just leave us alone and we will fight this fight alone if we have to,” Rowley said.
“All the planning we have done is to cater for who is in here. We can’t plan for who is out there.”
The PM said T&T has 330,000 nationals abroad and in this situation, they have to be taken into account in the equation. Of the 330,000, Rowley said 245,000 are in the US, with 165,000 residing in New York alone, while another 80,000 are in Canada.
He said if we were to open the borders, we might as well thrown in the towel.
“We are not going to do that. If it is that circumstances become so dire out there it is quite likely that significant numbers of those persons will head for home,” he said.
Rowley said subsequent to the shutting down of our borders, a group of T&T nationals embarked on a flight that took them only to Barbados.
“When they got to Barbados the authorities in Barbados had the option to send them back to where they came from,” he said.
In communicating with the Barbadian government, the PM said they made an arrangement so that the nationals would be subjected to the Barbados authorities.
The nationals were put in quarantine in compliance with World Health Organisation (WHO) standards.
“Nobody is stranded and left in the streets,” he said, adding calls were made to irresponsible politicians who started to demand that all the plans Government had put in place should be disregarded.
Rowley said once the quarantine period is up, the nationals will be tested in Barbados and “when they reach the WHO standards to be released … if they make their way to T&T they will arrive here” and they will be subjected to the CMO.
In the face of mounting stress dealing with COVID-19, Rowley said Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar went to the Barbadian government behind Government’s back and made statements that “this country has made its citizens stateless.” This, he said, was untrue.
“Such comments are not helpful. They are detrimental and undermining our best efforts at home and abroad.”
Persad-Bissessar’s actions, Rowley said, were irresponsible in a period of crisis as she sought “to score political points.”
The PM said the relationship between T&T and Barbados was about brother and sisterly love.
“It is embarrassing to always have to talk about this kind of behaviour,” he said.