SOURCE: CMC — The Trinidad and Tobago government Saturday declared a State of Emergency (SOE) and an eight hour curfew as a ‘scared population” looked to the authorities to implement new measures to deal with a rising number of deaths and infections from the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
Prime Minister Dr. Keith Rowley, speaking at the weekly news conference of the Ministry of Health, said that the SOE will go into effect as from midnight and that the curfew will be from 9.00pm to 5.00 am (local time) daily.
“The state of emergency will remain in place until it has expired or continued,” he said, noting that under the law, the SOE remains in place for 90 days in the first instance.
Prime Minister Dr. Keith Rowley speaking to reporters on Saturday
“If you don’t have to be out for exempted reasons please stay home,” Rowley said, as the country reported 5,558 active cases of the virus and 271 deaths.
Rowley told reporters that it has now dawned on the population that the virus should be taken very seriously, saying he also came to the realisation that he is seeing a “population that is sacred”.
“I am sorry that it has come to coffins and faces of dead people for us to realise that we are in and have always been in a very difficult place. Before we were only dealing with numbers, but I think the population is at the stage now where the numbers are being seen to be of people even known to you.
“Some of the people who have [died] recently have been known to all of us either in the work that they do or the places they have been or just who they are . So we are no longer dealing with numbers , we are now dealing with 21 deaths in one day and if you bring that down to per hour, it is almost one person dying every hour.”
Rowley said that is a frightening situation, warning if the situation is allowed to multiply “very soon we will be happy when it is only 21 because it could go to a number where 21 is a great improvement…because the more we are allowing ourselves to be infected, that population of infected people would generate a large percentage of sick people and will generate a larger population of dead people”.
Rowley said that while it is not feasible to shut down a country “much as we would like everybody to be home” the authorities are allowing for workers in essential services to function so as to prevent the rest of the population engaging in buying things in excess thereby causing a panic.
“We were carrying a balancing act’ life and livelihood all the time,’ Rowley said, noting that “the situation now with threaten inability to provide health care means that the input on the life side, on the seesaw we have to put more emphasis on the life side than on the livelihood for a little while.”
Rowley said places like gas stations, pharmacies, supermarkets, would be allowed to operate within the nine hour 12 hour period,” but the other areas we will shut down completely”.
Rowley said that the government had tried “very hard” to stay away from imposing the SOE and the curfew, but reminded the population that “virtually every country in the world” is now experiencing a new wave of the pandemic.
“We had a first wave, a second, we are having a third and of course we just don’t have to panic. This does not call for panic. We never panicked, we looked at it squarely in the eye and decided what is required of us and this is what is required of us at this time.”
Rowley said he is hoping the population will be fully cooperative with “these hard measures … that the period of high infection and high levels of death should be a shorter period.
“To try to avoid this now is to prolong the twilight period and to also allow a situation where what you have seen outside the hospitals … where those who are dying are dying because they cannot get a breath of oxygen.”