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Stuart Young

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Over 200 nationals are expected to be repatriated home this weekend after the Ministry of National Security granted “hundreds” of exemptions over the past week.

This was the word from Minister of National Security Stuart Young yesterday. He confirmed that over 100 nationals will be returning from Miami today and at least 115 from Barbados on Sunday. This, Young said, was done in collaboration with Caribbean Airlines Limited.

“There have been other private flights that have been permitted which have repatriated nationals,” Young added.

He said Government intends “to continue granting exemptions for nationals to return to Trinidad and Tobago on an expedited basis.”

During a press conference on August 29, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley announced that the National Security Ministry was going to “maximise the amount of exemptions granted.” The decision to increase the number of exemptions to enter the country was prompted by the shift to home isolation for quarantine and even milder cases of COVID-19. Previously, those needing to be quarantined after entering the country were mandated to do so in state facilities or state-supervised facilities. But the growing number of cases brought about by the virus’ sustained community transmission since earlier in August made the mandate impossible to maintain.

Exemptions for nationals abroad to re-enter the country became necessary after borders were shut on March 23 during the country’s first phase of COVID-19 infections, which began days before on March 12. During this first phase, recorded cases were almost exclusively imported except for the local transmission of the virus to primary and secondary contacts of these nationals.

However, while the Government has amended its exemption criteria and expanded its quantities, there remain hundreds of nationals abroad trying to come home, plight officials such as Young said they understand but urged the nationals to bear with them as the process continues.