Trinidad: Female passenger refused entry on travel restriction

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( – A fe­male pas­sen­ger who ar­rived at Pi­ar­co In­ter­na­tion­al Air­port from Guyana on Mon­day night on a jour­ney that orig­i­nat­ed in Hong Kong was sent back to the port of em­barka­tion.

This was con­firmed by Chief Med­ical Of­fi­cer Dr Roshan Paras­ram who said the woman “did not have any symp­toms or any­thing that was sus­pi­cious but she was re­turned be­cause of the trav­el re­stric­tions from Chi­na.”

He told Guardian Me­dia: “I be­lieve she would have gone through oth­er ter­ri­to­ries, in­clud­ing Hong Kong, New York and Guyana and then to Trinidad. Based on our trav­el re­stric­tions for per­sons leav­ing Chi­na with­in 14 days of de­par­ture, she was re­turned to the last port of call based on the Cab­i­net note and the im­mi­gra­tion laws.

“I don’t know what flight she came in from but I on­ly know of that woman who came in from Guyana and she would have spent some time at our air­port wait­ing on de­par­ture back to the port of call.”

Com­ment­ing on the in­ci­dent dur­ing an in­ter­view of CNC3’s The Morn­ing Brew, Chief Im­mi­gra­tion Of­fi­cer Char­maine Gand­hi-An­drews said of­fi­cials at this coun­try’s ports of en­try are alert­ed right away—via ad­vance pas­sen­ger in­for­ma­tion from air­lines—when pas­sen­gers orig­i­nate from Chi­na.

How­ev­er, some per­sons have more com­pli­cat­ed trav­el itin­er­aries and im­mi­gra­tion of­fi­cials are on­ly able to de­duce their ori­gin dur­ing the in­ter­view and by look­ing at all their trav­el doc­u­ments and pass­ports. “We had one such case yes­ter­day and that pas­sen­ger was re­turned to their port of en­try,” she said.

“They were screened by port health; there was no is­sue. How­ev­er, be­cause of the trav­el ban, that per­son was re­turned to their port of em­barka­tion.”

Ghan­di-An­drews said cit­i­zens and per­ma­nent res­i­dents of this coun­try can­not be re­fused en­try. How­ev­er, they will be screened and pos­si­bly even quar­an­tined if they have re­turned from a coun­try of in­ter­est for the virus, and pose a po­ten­tial in­fec­tion risk.

The in­ci­dent caused some con­cern among air­port work­ers, in­clud­ing Im­mi­gra­tion and cus­toms of­fi­cers, who are call­ing for more strin­gent screen­ing process­es, in­clud­ing full-body sani­ti­sa­tion spray­ing for all ar­riv­ing pas­sen­gers as they dis­em­bark from the re­spec­tive air­craft.

One air­port work­er, speak­ing on con­di­tion of anonymi­ty, said: “We think that there should be more pre­cau­tion­ary mea­sures at the air­port… maybe have a sys­tem where all pas­sen­gers are screened and sani­tised by full-body spray­ing be­fore they en­ter the ter­mi­nal. The avail­abil­i­ty of more gloves, face masks and hand sani­tis­ers too.”

Ghan­di-An­drews said 1,000 masks were or­dered last week and it is be­com­ing “more im­per­a­tive that all of­fi­cers utilise it.”

With re­gards to the screen­ing process, she said an as­sis­tant chief and two Grade IV of­fi­cers have been as­signed to the air­port to over­see the coro­n­avirus screen­ing process. Dr Vish­wanath Par­taps­ingh, Prin­ci­pal Med­ical Of­fi­cer at the Health Min­istry, said risk of the nov­el coro­n­avirus nCoV-2019 spread­ing to T&T is rel­a­tive­ly low, com­pared with oth­er places. How­ev­er, while there is no need to pan­ic, the coun­try can­not af­ford to be com­pla­cent. Dr Par­taps­ingh says the screen­ing sys­tems are ex­treme­ly de­tailed to de­ter­mine trav­ellers’ pos­si­ble ex­po­sure to nCov-2019, once they are com­ing from coun­tries of in­ter­est.

“When you look at the ex­it screen­ing of those com­ing out of these ports, it is quite in­tense. There is a tem­per­a­ture scan­ning. There is al­so the ex­po­sure his­to­ry as­cer­tained: ‘Did you trav­el or go to a mar­ket with live an­i­mals? Did you have any live an­i­mals? Did you come in­to con­tact with any­one who dis­played any of the symp­toms?’ That is the base of the screen­ing,” he said.

“When you look at the cas­es in the oth­er coun­tries out­side of main­land Chi­na, the cas­es all had a di­rect ex­po­sure his­to­ry—ei­ther trav­el to or had a di­rect, close con­tact with some­one who was con­firmed with a case.”

Dr Par­taps­ingh said re­duc­ing risk ul­ti­mate­ly comes down to each per­son prac­tis­ing good hy­giene at all times, es­pe­cial­ly when cough­ing and sneez­ing, and most im­por­tant­ly—fre­quent­ly wash­ing one’s hands with soap and wa­ter.

He al­so warned about cross con­t­a­m­i­na­tion for those us­ing masks and gloves to pro­tect them­selves from pos­si­ble in­fec­tion.

“You have a mask on; you think all is well. You have gloves on; you think all is well. But then you’re on the phone. You have the pen. You touch the pass­port. You ad­just the mask. And so, you have the po­ten­tial to cross con­t­a­m­i­nate for any virus or any sort of pathogen that comes in.

“Hand wash­ing is key. Main­tain­ing a dis­tance with some­one who you know is sneez­ing and cough­ing is key.”

Last Thurs­day, Cab­i­net agreed to a trav­el re­stric­tion on any­one trav­el­ling from Chi­na to T&T, in light of the spread of the coro­n­avirus. Health Min­is­ter Ter­rance Deyals­in­gh an­nounced that “per­sons who are present­ly liv­ing in Chi­na or vis­it­ing Chi­na, re­gard­less of na­tion­al­i­ty, will not be al­lowed en­try in­to Trinidad and To­ba­go for 14 days af­ter leav­ing Chi­na.”

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