Minister of Health Terrence Deyalsingh says the latest patient to have contracted COVID-19 poses no threat to the population as the patient had no opportunity to spread the virus.During Monday’s virtual Ministry of Health COVID-19 update, Deyalsingh said the patient, a woman, was among a family of three transported from Houston, Texas, in the USA to T&T by an air ambulance last Thursday. Following the ministry’s COVID-19 protocols for returning nationals, he said the family was taken to the T&T Football Association’s Home of Football in Couva for quarantine.
Nasopharyngeal swabs were taken from the patient of Friday and around 5.30 pm on Saturday, test results confirmed that one was COVID-19 positive.“The family was never allowed to go home, as per protocol. This speaks to how robust we are in Trinidad & Tobago because then, we do not have to do any contact tracing. There is no possibility that other family members, other members of the household, friends, family, public transportation or anything would have been an issue,” Deyalsingh said.Asked why the patient was sent to the Home of Football, which was used as a step-down facility for recovering patients, as opposed to either the Caura or Couva Hospitals where positive patients are treated, Chief Medical Officer Dr Roshan Parasram said after consulting with the medical team at Caura and the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA), they determined the Home of Football was a suitable place for quarantine as the patient was in a convalescent stage.
Parasram said the exemption for the family to return was granted by the Ministry of National Security and their role was to determine the level of care.“In this particular instance, it seems that the period of infection would have been passed in terms of significant infection and they (patient) would now be in a convalescent stage. As you remember, the Home of Football was used for convalescent patients in the past as a decanting facility,” Parasram said.
“The patient actually has no symptoms since coming to Trinidad on Thursday or very mild symptoms, which were not given on the examination. We continue to feel that the best place right now is in that step-down facility without having to step up to a hospital. Having said that, of course, if symptoms develop or if symptoms become apparent or get worse, the person will be placed into one of the hospitals as need be.”
While the latest case does not present a public health threat, Deyalsingh said the ministry remains concerned about imported cases, as it shows the threat still exists, especially as more people return to T&T. He said there was a call by “one ill-informed person” to bring in 1,000 people because there are 1,000 beds in the parallel healthcare system. However, he said the global COVID-19 tally to date was almost the population size of the Caricom region. As the retail sector returned to work yesterday, Deyalsingh said there is now an increased risk of people being infected.
On the issue of the use of face masks, he gave an example of speaking to 20 people on the Brian Lara Promenade on Sunday. Of the 20 people, he said only two wore masks although they were sitting in close proximity to each other. However, he said when he asked them why they were not wearing masks they all had them in their pockets. Deyalsingh said he welcomed the resumption of retail business since it would boost employment for economic activity. However, to protect the country’s safe position, Deyalsingh appealed to retailers, managers and mall owners to deny entry or service to anyone who does not wear a mask. He said hand sanitisers in stores for customers’ use will also improve proper hygiene.“You have the authority to tell people, ‘No Mask, No Service!’ This is your contribution towards keeping us safe.”