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Sheriffa & George Ogeer on their wedding day. The couple died of COVID-19 within hours of each other

In one week, COVID-19 has claimed three members of a Longdenville family.

Shareena Ali, 53, passed away one week after her bedridden brother-in-law, George Ogeer, 52, who she had been caring for. George’s wife Sheriffa, 50, Shareena’s younger sister, also lost her battle with the virus.

The sisters, who relatives said were inseparable and loved each other dearly, lived next door to each other at Ravine Sable Road.

Their cousin Shiraz Khan, president of the Trinidad Unified Farmers Association, expressed outrage at the length of time the couple waited to get the results of their PRC tests from the Montrose Health Centre. He said Shareena was swabbed at the health centre in mid-November.

“She was told to go back home and quarantine,” he said.

While awaiting the results, Shareena’s health started to decline. The results came back positive on November 22.

“That was four days after she was swabbed. I can’t understand why the results took so long,” Khan said.

The following day, Shareena was admitted to the Intensive Care Unit at the Couva Hospital. She died three days later

“She didn’t have a fighting chance,” he said, “because by the time she got back the results it was already too late. She was in a critical state.”

He said the same thing happened to George who was the first in the family to be swabbed. He went to the health centre in the first week of November after complaining about feeling unwell.

“He too was swabbed and told to go back home and self-quarantine,” said Khan, who believes the sisters probably contracted the virus from George.

On November 15, the health centre confirmed that George had tested positive.

Khan said George had suffered a stroke some time ago and often had seizures.

“The virus eventually spread to his wife and sister-in-law. George had been bedridden for six years and Sheriffa had to see about him. Shareena often helped her younger sister as they lived next to each other and were very close. Remember they were looking after George even before his results came back positive,” he said.

Khan said Sheriffa was never swabbed but was the first to die. She was slightly overweight and suffered from high blood pressure and diabetes.

“I don’t know if the Delta virus was responsible for their deaths. Sheriffa battled severe body pains and had a high fever. The virus ravaged her organs in a few hours. At 6 am on November 19, I received a call that she had passed away,” he said.

While family members were making arrangement’s for Sheriffa’s funeral, they were told that George had also died.

“They both died seven hours apart at home. How we know Sheriffa died from COVID? The DMO swabbed her on Friday and we got the results the following Wednesday night, five days later,” Khan said.

“Something is wrong with how this system is operating. The problem is not vaccinated or unvaccinated, the problem is that we not getting in public health institutions immediate results, whereas in the private labs you can pay a few hundred dollars and get your results the same day or a few hours after.”

“You cannot wait for four and five days for COVID results. That puts other family members at risk. The problem we have is that when they swabbed somebody at the health centre, why it is, we can’t get back the results early. Why we can’t have rapid testing throughout the country.”

Khan believes that the delay has been causing the virus to spread.

“People who might be COVID positive and waiting days to get back their results would be moving around and spreading the virus.

Khan said one of Shareena’s four children has tested positive but is not in any great danger and is in quarantine at home. However one of Shereena and Shariffa’s sisters-in-law is battling for her life in the ICU at the Arima General Hospital.

“She also has COVID. This sad news is not something we can easily digest. Our family has been torn apart in the last few days,” Khan said

He said he was very close to the sisters and often visited them.

“Those are people I grew up with and cared for. It is has been heartbreaking.”

The Ogeers had been married for 26 years and operated a mini-mart at their home. They had two children. The couple suffered tragic loss 12 years ago when their eight-year-old son, Adrian, died from dengue.

On Thursday the Ogeers were buried in the same spot where their son had been laid to rest in the Longdenville Cemetery. The next day, Shareena was buried next to her sister and brother-in-law.