TWO dozen members of the Coast Guard who rescued and detained 32 Venezuelans from a sinking pirogue, are asking why they now have to quarantine on a vessel off the Chaguaramas coast, when they conduct such operations every day.
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A Coast Guardsman who spoke to the Express on behalf of his colleagues yesterday, said there was little physical interaction with the group, and the officers who assisted them to get onto the Coast Guard vessel wore masks and gloves.
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He said, they were forced to take action because the majority of the Venezuelans on the pirogue were women and children.
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“Everybody, the general public, said we should leave them let them sink with the boat but we had to save them because it was mainly women and children and babies,” he said.
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The officer said such operations are not unusual
“This is something we are accustomed to doing and since this Covid-19 pandemic we have strict policies when we bringing (Venezuelans) on the boat,” said the officer
He believes reports of the operation in the media prompted an instruction to be given for the Coast Guard officers to be quarantined
“We have brought in Venezuelans numerous times, but this one time now everybody kicking up a fuss and saying why the officers not quarantined and why they weren’t wearing protective gear. “All that is not true, we have protective gear and hazmat suits, we have masks,” he said
The officer said when the Venezuelans came aboard the vessel they were ordered to stay in one area
“It’s a ship, we brought them on board and while we had them on the ship, they weren’t allowed to go inside to use the bathroom or anything. There were two sentries posted at a distance to guard them and when we reach in Staubles Bay (Chaguaramas) they were taken off the ship by people in full hazmat suits,” he said
“My question is if we are going out every day and interacting with these people then every crew should be quarantined and if you do that you will have no Coast Guard men to go out and do patrols because we work for the past seven days and now we can’t go home. I want to know what is the valid reason for us to be quarantined,” he said
Asked how the Venezuelans made it on to the ship the officer said, three other officers who wore gloves and masks would have assisted them
“If you are a doctor or a medical personnel you deal with patients and then go home. In the same way we have persons wearing their gear and now the whole crew is being asked to quarantine for 14 days so that will be 21 days for us when you count the seven days we have been out here,” he said
The officer also explained that there was never any “lockdown” at Cedros
“Cedros was never under lockdown. What caused a question (to be raised) was when the news that the place (was) on a lockdown (because) Venezuelans brought in,” he said
‘The vessel would not stop’
“Like any other case we thought it was cocaine and drugs they coming with because they didn’t want to stop. We do what we had to do to stop the vessel and in doing so it start to take in water so we had no choice but to bring them on. We had to disable the vessel, in other words to stop it,” he said
He said the officers have been taking stringent measures to protect themselves and they bought their own N95 masks
“We also have a next vessel that transports corona-positive patients from Tobago and at the end of the tour for that crew they get to go home and they actually dealing with corona(virus) patients,” he said
The officer claimed that none of the Venezuelans had flu-like symptoms but had normal sea sickness. “They were at sea for so long they had sea sickness, they didn’t have any cough or cold…” He said the Coast Guard members have not been medically examined
“We just here because the public kick up a fuss and said ‘don’t send the crew home’. We just here wasting time because of ‘he say-she say’ business,” he said. The officer said they have been at sea for seven days and their food and personal items are running low
“We running out of soap to wash clothes, basic necessities and food because we only plan to come out here for seven days,” he said
He said: “People as we speak are trying to cross the borders right now, not everything you all know but every day we bring in people and is only now in this isolated situation because it reach the media they want us to quarantine.”