May 30 will be no “Arrival Day” for 345 citizens aboard a Royal Caribbean International ship as the Government maintains its closed border policy.
Uncertainty surrounds the fate of those citizens aboard the Vision of the Seas cruise ship that left Miami last Friday to repatriate employees to their Caribbean homes.
The ship was expected to reach Port-of-Spain on May 30 but took T&T off its itinerary over the weekend as there was no agreement by the Government to allow entry to the T&T nationals.
National Security Minister Stuart Young told Guardian Media yesterday that the Government already informed cruise ship owners and agents that no exemptions would be granted.
“The borders of Trinidad & Tobago are currently closed to both nationals and non-nationals. This measure is based on the advice of our medical public health experts and is an important part of the government’s effort to restrict the spread of COVID-19.
“We continue to manage our borders and entry into Trinidad & Tobago very carefully to protect the population in Trinidad & Tobago. It has already been communicated to the cruise ship owners and agents that at this time no exemption is granted for entry into Trinidad & Tobago,” Young said.
The Vision of the Seas was expected to reach the Port of Port-of-Spain on Arrival Day after dropping off employees in Barbados, St Lucia and St Vincent and the Grenadines.
It was disheartening news for the T&T nationals onboard, who spent the last two months on various vessels without being able to disembark at any ports due to COVID-19. It has been that way since March when Royal Caribbean ordered all vessels to drop off passengers in the US.
In the past few weeks, the company began repatriation flights for employees to Haiti and some Central American countries. The Vision of the Seas voyage commenced after agreements with various Caribbean governments to allow their citizens to come home.
A spokesperson for the T&T nationals said other governments with lesser capacity for State-quarantine agreed to accept their citizens, but T&T was the only to disagree.
“If exemptions are being granted for people to enter T&T, what are the criteria? Why are the 345 nationals aboard this ship not being granted exemptions as well? We understand the protocol for quarantine in a State facility, and there is no one here who would disagree with that.
The company reached an agreement with the Vincentian government, which was that as soon as their nationals boarded the ship, they go on an immediate 14-day quarantine. They have been doing that, and by the time we reach St Vincent, their quarantine would be complete.
“There are more Vincentians here than Trinidadians. If the Vincentian government can do that, why is the Trinidad & Tobago Government finding it difficult? Jamaica, St Lucia and Barbados are allowing their people in, but we are the lone island saying no.”
The spokesperson said there was a glum mood among the T&T nationals on board since there was no favourable news over the weekend about their repatriation. However, the company is still trying to negotiate with the T&T Government.
The Government said the reopening of T&T’s borders may happen in phase six of its lifting of COVID-19 restrictions. Although no date was given, it was estimated between July and August.
“We have families, and some have children at home. We do not know what will happen. Are we just going to be on a ship anchored off Barbados? Are we supposed to wait until the end of July? What happens if July reaches and they don’t open the borders?
How is it they allowed other people to enter the country, go through screening and quarantine and we can’t. We have members aboard this ship who came from other vessels. All vessels underwent mandatory quarantine periods with a minimum of 14 days between March and May. In addition to that, we are following social distancing, proper sanitisation and hygiene, and we are all fine. If we have to come home and be quarantined, we have no problem with that.”