Health Minister Terrance Deyalsingh answers questions during a press conference at the Diplomatic Centre, St Ann’s, yesterday.

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The reckless and irresponsible behaviour of some citizens as T&T battles with a growing COVID-19 pandemic can bring the country to its knees, Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh says.

This was the message Deyalsingh sent to members of the public who continue to act carelessly as the number of positive cases rose to 51 yesterday.

At a press conference chaired by Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley at Diplomatic Centre St Ann’s, Deyalsingh spoke about two instances of irresponsible behaviour by citizens who ought to know better, noting their actions was not in keeping with the good public health practice needed in the fight against the virus.

“There is a preparatory school in Power Magazine which sent out a letter to parents stating that they would be opened for business from today. We had to shut them down,” Deyalsingh told reporters.

Had they not closed the school’s doors, Deyalsingh said the whole western peninsular could have had community spread of the virus.

He said even as Government continues to press home the importance of following the COVID measures put in place, some people have not been obeying self-quarantine rules.

Deyalsingh also spoke specifically about 40 of the 51 confirmed COVID-19 cases who were hospitalised at the Couva Hospital on Friday night. These patients came from a batch of 68 who were quarantined at Camp Balandra after arriving home from an ill-fated Caribbean cruise last week.

“And it gives me no pleasure in saying this….the 40 patients at Couva (Hospital), we actually had to call the army in to talk to them to behave themselves and to adhere to quarantine rules … and to stop violating rules we had put out for them,” Deyalsingh said, noting these patients were quarantined for a reason.

Following Saturday’s launch of the ministry’s 877-WELL hotline to deal with COVID-19-related questions, Deyalsingh also said “as predicted” the centre received a lot of calls from people enquiring not about the virus but how they could change their flights.

“It is not a joke because you are preventing legitimate calls from coming in. So the call centre is not being used for the calls we envisaged.”

Deyalsingh gave a breakdown of the ministry’s total bed capacity at public hospitals. He said at Couva Hospital there are 254 beds and of this 46 are currently occupied. At the Caura Hospital, there are 100 beds with 18 being utilised. He said the Arima General Hospital will also be equipped with 90 beds, with four intensive care and six high dependency units.

Boasting that our healthcare system has been performing well, Deyalsingh said: “With reckless behaviour like that school in Powder Magazine … like that place in Chaguanas over the weekend … that could bring this whole thing crashing down in an instant.

“If we don’t behave in a certain way … all of this pre-planning … all of this resource allocation could amount to nought if as a country we do not behave.”

Pleading with the public to let good sense prevail, practice social distancing and not gather in groups more than ten, Deyalsingh said private schools and institutions “feel there is a different rule for them. It is one rule for everybody.”

Deyalsingh also gave a breakdown of how many ventilators the health system was equipped with. He said there are 138 ventilators for confirmed COVID-19 cases. The private hospitals have only 21.

The ventilators will be installed at Couva Hospital and Augustus Long Hospital, Deyalsingh said. Of the 12 ventilators at Couva, only one is in use. Soon, he said the Health Ministry will also expand its testings at the Eric Williams Medical Sciences Complex and Trinidad Public Health Lab, which will be outfitted with polymerase chain reaction machines.

He said CARPHA will also now test “all samples that fit the criteria of potential exposure. There will be no limit to T&T.”

Daily, Deyalsingh said 180 tests will be undertaken with 1,260 tests done weekly.

All travellers quarantined with primary contacts, along with high-risk groups, Deyalsingh said, will now be tested.