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Minister of Health Terrence Deyalsingh

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There are currently 1,061 active cases of COVID-19 in the country, with almost 90 per cent of these cases now in home isolation under the continuous monitoring by the respective County Medical Officer Health (CMOH) offices. And for the most part, it seems patients are much more comfortable at home.

Former Miss World T&T Kimberly Farrah Singh did a PCR test on August 16 and received a positive result on August 25. She was expecting to be taken to hospital when Chief Medical Officer Dr Roshan Parasram last week announced the new measure which would allow patients exhibiting mild symptoms to quarantine at home.

Singh said she believes she contracted the virus from a co-worker who was awaiting a test result for over two weeks after being exposed to a patient but still went to work. However, Singh noted that her entire household has been living under the assumption they each had the virus and would continue doing so until all the results were returned.

Singh said even if she had to be admitted to hospital she would have had no issues.

“To me, this isn’t something strange that happened and I feel as though with the number of cases we were seeing – it was really only a matter of time before things went that way. I had no feeling towards it. If I had to go (to hospital) I had to go. That’s the rules. I would follow the rules. But it’s not a rare situation. It’s happening all over the world,” Singh told Guardian Media yesterday.

She said the members of her household have been using the time constructively to try and learn new skills and try to make time to go by in their yard together while maintaining the health protocols.

A patient from Charlieville, Chaguanas, told Guardian Media yesterday that he believes he’s “recovering much better at home than in the hospital.”

The 30-year-old tested positive for the virus on August 23 and was taken to the Caura Hospital in Tunapuna, where he spent the next three days receiving treatment before being discharged under the new criteria. At the hospital, he said there were several discomforts to patients, stemming from poor infrastructure and being confined to a hot room with other patients.

“I’m much more comfortable now that I’m home because my mom, or neighbours, or other family members, or friends does cook and drop stuff for me. It have a table outside where they come and drop it…I have no problem with the washroom flooding out. The place is cooler because I have my AC and stuff. I have my medication,” the patient, who did not want to be identified, said.

A Freeport patient currently in home isolation until mid-September said he too preferred being in a familiar environment. Among other things, he believes being at home is also safer.

“I don’t know what strain of COVID I had but I know there are several strains in circulation across the world and in Trinidad, so the potential for me to be exposed while in state quarantine or in a hospital was high and that could have triggered a relapse, so I definitely think I recovered better at home,” he said.

He said his family was exposed to the virus when a family friend visited their home; infecting his parents, himself and two friends who were also over. He said his family has been self-isolating at home since he first tested positive.

Also speaking to Guardian Media was a 24-year-old Carapichaima man who went through the entire process used before the recent changes. He tested positive for the virus on August 12, was taken to the Couva Hospital on August 13, was stepped down to Canada Hall, UWI, on August 18 and discharged on August 26.

During his time in the system, the country would have gone from 222 active cases to 1,204. The effects of this, he said, was evident to patients as they observed staff being overwhelmed and flustered trying to keep up with the daily jumps in cases being hospitalised. But despite their burden, he said the staff was always kind to them and they received excellent treatment. However, due to his circumstances at home, he was happy to have been quarantined and treated in a state facility due to his lack of confidence in his ability to effectively prevent transmission within his household.

“Two of my close family members have asthma and my extended family, as in my grandparents and stuff, two of them have diabetes,” he said.

In cases such as his, the Minister of Health Terrence Deyalsingh said on Saturday that state quarantine was available for citizens who don’t have the resources to properly self-isolate at home.

On August 26, the country changed its position on the hospitalisation of COVID-19 patients as part of its enhanced response to growing numbers of community transmitted cases of the virus. As of last Wednesday, patients with milder symptoms of the virus are now allowed to self-isolate at home—a move which was not allowed, despite requests, during the first phase of infection with mainly imported cases of the virus and a few locally transmitted cases. The decision came days after the CMO announced on August 22 that the discharge and step-down criteria were also changed.

In conjunction, these measures have the effect of clearing out hundreds of patients from the parallel healthcare system set up to treat with cases of the virus. Within hours of the announcement, occupancy at the state facilities plummeted. Between 6 pm last Wednesday into Thursday, over 400 patients were discharged and another 670 moved out of state facilities and into home isolation.

The move was lauded by local health experts as a move in the right direction and as a proportional response to the current circumstances presented by the virus.