The 33 Trinidad and Tobago nationals who returned from Barbados this week will have to undergo the mandatory 14-day quarantine as Chief Medical Officer (CMO) Dr Roshan Parasram is not bending on his position that they go through the compulsory process.
After spending almost a month in Barbados, the borders were temporarily opened to allow the group to return home on Tuesday. Part of the agreement, however, was that they were to be tested for COVID-19 in Barbados before returning, undergo medical evaluations upon arrival and go through the quarantine period.
The group was housed at the National Racquet Centre step-down facility in Tacarigua after their arrival.
However, after it was reported that all 33 people tested negative for the virus following their tests in Barbados, they called on the CMO to allow them to go home to their families, saying they had gone through enough physical and emotional trauma in their effort to finally return home.
Speaking at the COVID-19 news conference yesterday, Parasram confirmed he had received the results for the group and forwarded them to the County Medical Officer of Health.
However, he maintained that the protocol remains the same for the group regardless of their results from the tests in Barbados.
“Our quarantine period remains 14 days for anybody who returns,” Parasram said.
“Our point of exposure, as I keep saying with this epidemic, we keep seeing a lot of people being infected in airports. We know this particular group would have come through an airport recently within the last few days.”
He said any test results that are done now would give the health authorities a good baseline to see what a particular group looks like.
The CMO explained, “People have been saying you have two negatives and you can go home. That two negatives 24 hours apart doesn’t speak to persons that have not been infected, it doesn’t speak to people that are in self-quarantine.
“What it speaks to is somebody who is positive, we wait the 15 days after the onset of symptoms and then we have two negative results. If someone comes into any facility with a negative test and you repeat it 24 hours afterwards and they have no symptoms, there is no guarantee that those tests won’t be false negatives because we have no symptoms.”
He said the time of quarantine is 14 days because this is the length of time healthcare providers expect symptoms to reappear in persons deemed at risk.
Parasram also sought to clarify what he called a misunderstanding regarding posthumous testing for COVID-19. In an earlier briefing, he had indicated that this would not be done due to the high risk.
But on Thursday, the United National Congress accused the Ministry of Health of “flip-flopping” on the issue.
“In a remarkable flip flop today, the nation is being told that the ‘Forensic Sciences Centre was actually sending testing all along to CARPHA’ after stating publicly that this was not the policy by local authorities,” Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar said in a release.
Yesterday, however, Parasram said the posthumous testing was started on March 7 and the last one was done on the 21st of that same month. He explained that in any epidemic when you are trying to categorise community spread and other things, you look at the number of deaths that occur in the population. He said the deaths that they would see coming to them are the deaths that are occurring in the hospitals and the ones that they don’t see are the ones in the homes.
He said in terms of the Forensic Sciences Centre the deaths there would consist of homicides, suicides and unexplained deaths.
“We decided to test those. It gives us a very good sense of what was happening in the communities well. So out of those 69 as I said yesterday (Thursday) and one in Tobago, none of them was positive gives us a good idea of community spread of lack thereof.”
He said it was very good to have data that suggested there is little or no community spread occurring from the unexplained deaths.