Trinidad and Tobago Govt says borders may remain closed for election

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(CMC) The Trinidad and Tobago government says it has no plans to rush towards reopening the borders of the country, which have been closed since March, in a bid to limit the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19).

Opposition parties have been calling on Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley to indicate whether or not the borders would remain closed ahead of the August 10 general election.

But speaking at the weekly Ministry of Health virtual news conference to update the population on the virus that has killed eight people and infected 131 others, both Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh and National Security Minister Stuart Young said that the closure of the borders had nothing to do with any pending elections.

Deyalsingh told reporters that until the world gets a handle on the spread of the virus, it is not prudent for Trinidad and Tobago to reopen the borders. There are 543,000 deaths and 11.4 million people infected with the virus worldwide, since the first case was detected in China last December.

“We are a small country with limited resources and yes, we have done well, so there is no way I can tell you when the borders are going to be opened, but what we can say is that until the world, until the globe gets a handle on getting decreasing rates of infection that discussion is going to be premature,” Deyalsingh said.

He said that what is scary is that the daily number of new cases, noting that the average number of new cases per day is seeing no downward trend.

“As a matter of fact you are seeing the opposite,” he added.

Young said the government is not trying to disenfranchise anyone who is overseas and wants to return to the country to vote in the election.

So far this year, Anguilla, St Kitts and Nevis, Guyana, and Suriname have held elections during the COVID-19 pandemic with none of them re-opening their borders to allow in nationals wanting to participate in the process.

Opposition Leader Kamla Persad Bissessar has already warned that her United National Congress (UNC) had lawyers standing by to challenge the closure of the borders during the election.

“All of these decisions with the management of COVID are based on expert advice from our public health officials. Right now our public health officials are very, very clear and I support them personally because it makes a lot of sense to me that the borders have to remain close,” Young argued.

“This is not about the disenfranchisement of anyone. If it is left up to us we would like everyone to be back here in Trinidad and Tobago. This is simply about the protection of the population who are here in Trinidad and Tobago from a global pandemic that is raging,” he maintained.