Days after the travel restriction was announced by Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh, several travellers who recently travelled to China were let into the country.
The revelation came on the heels of a Chinese national’s case having to be adjourned by High Court judge Hayden St Clair-Douglas at the Hall of Justice in Port-of-Spain yesterday morning, due to concerns over the coronavirus.
Yan Fang Hong, 47, who was due to appear in court yesterday, left China on Thursday and entered the country through a connecting flight in New York on February 1. (See article below)
Asked how Hong could enter the country after the ban was announced on Thursday, January 30, Deyalsingh said: “The President had to sign off on that order which she did on the 31st. The Chief Medical Officer (CMO) has to sign off an order and that was done on the 31st. Immigration has to be alerted. So although Cabinet took the decision on Thursday 30, it would take some time to the policy to reach down on the ground to Immigration.”
Deyalsingh was unable to indicate when the order reached Immigration officials and said he would need to find out from Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi. Guardian Media attempted to reach Chief Immigration Officer Charmaine Gandhi-Andrews, Minister of National Security Stuart Young and AG Faris Al-Rawi to ascertain when the order was officially implemented. However, no response was given up to press time.
Chief Medical Officer Dr Roshan Parasram also revealed to Guardian Media that “we would have had a couple people coming through.”
While acknowledging the delay in implementing the restriction, he also offered a different explanation to Deyalsingh’s, explaining that a decision was made to allow into the country, those travellers who were already en route to T&T when the restriction was announced.
“It was actually only now in effect and what we had agreed is that people who were coming in that kind of grey area who had already left their countries of origin. It’s unfair for us as a country to do a ban today and then people who are en route to turn them away because they would not have known.”
“What we were doing is following them up for the 14 days to make sure they passed the incubation period. And once they passed that period and have no symptoms then fine. But if they have symptoms at any point—we monitor them every day—and they have numbers to call in the event that something happens at night and we would take them into hospital and do the necessary testing.”
He said those travellers are also equipped with the necessary equipment such as face masks and have a liaison through the county medical officer.
However, Minister Deyalsingh indicated differently saying in cases such as Hong’s, “they would be put in isolation just as we did with the student who came in.”
When contacted, Caribbean Airlines communication manager Dionne Ligoure told Guardian Media: “Caribbean Airlines is acutely aware of the coronavirus and the airline is proactively ensuring that measures are in place to safeguard its customers and crews.”
Dr Parasram iterated that currently there aren’t any confirmed or suspected cases of the novel coronavirus in the country.