Just as it came to the rescue of stranded cruise ship passengers turned away from several seaports in the COVID-19 crisis, Barbados today became a safe haven for a group of 35 elderly Trinidadians now under mandatory quarantine at Sugar Cane Club, St Peter.
The CARICOM neighbours who arrived from London at the Grantley Adams International Airport are barred from entering their homeland after the Keith Rowley administration locked down the borders on Sunday night in a bid to contain the spread of COVID-19 infections.
Addressing the matter as he appeared in a television interview on state-owned broadcaster the Caribbean Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) this evening, Attorney General Dale Marshall insisted Barbados had to take a humanitarian stance.
He noted that while Bridgetown has no legal responsibility to accept nationals but its own, it could not abandon the elderly group that had little to no options.
Marshall said: “The Government of Trinidad took the decision that they did not intend to accept them and we reached out to the Government of Trinidad and Tobago during the day to urge that they take their citizens but the fact of the matter is that they declined to do so.
“We had to make a humanitarian decision and it is a decision that we felt was principled and correct ensuring that at all times that Barbadians were safe.”
Marshall explained that if Barbados had denied the group landing rights, the Trinidadians would have had to return to England to face equally harsh measures imposed by authorities there to curb the spread of COVID-19.
Marshall continued: “We had no way of knowing what the situation would be for them in England when they return and so it was a question of what our options were.
“We felt that we were in a position to adequately receive these individuals so long as they were put into mandatory quarantine and that is what we have done.”
It was on Saturday that Trinidadian National Security Minister Stuart Young announced that Port of Spain would close its airspace to all international flights until further notice and seaports would also be closed to both nationals and non-nationals.
The announcement came as the twin-island republic confirmed 49 cases of COVID-19, a massive jump from the nine reported 24 hours earlier.
Marshall said the visitors, the majority of whom are over 60, were received and screened upon arrival by officials from the Ministry of Health.
“They were taken to a place of quarantine, that is at their own expense, not an expense of the Government of Barbados,” he explained.
The group reportedly left Port of Spain for a tour on February 25, which took them to Dubai where they spent three nights.
They then went on a cruise to South Africa, which was disrupted because of COVID-19.