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PNM Tobago Council Leader Tracy Davidson-Celestine

Secretary for Health, Wellness and Family Development in the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) Tracy Davidson-Celestine has warned that people who breach home isolation regulations in Tobago, could face being locked up.

She made the comment at a news conference yesterday, reiterating a previous statement made by Chief Secretary Ancil Dennis that people breaching home isolation regulations will be placed in a specific building.

“All of the information coming to us suggests that people are still out there even though they’re supposed to be in quarantine. So we have had a meeting with the law enforcement agency, that is the TTPS (Trinidad and Tobago Police Service) in this particular instance, to work out a system or method by which we could get persons to listen and to follow the health guidelines as issued by the Country Medical Officer of Health,” she said.

“If you have a challenge staying at homes, we can provide a place for you, and that is what we will be doing. So we have a building that we have identified as a quarantine facility, for those persons who are supposed to be on quarantine but who have a difficulty staying in their homes, and we will man that facility—when I say we, I’m talking about the Public Health Department will man that facility in concert with the TTPS.”

Currently, Under the Quarantine Act, the fine for breaching the regulations amounts to $250,000 and imprisonment for six months on summary conviction.

The Health Secretary said vaccine hesitancy is high on the island, especially in Tobago East, and the TRHA will educate and vaccine people on the spot.

The vaccination rate on the island is currently less than half of the targetted population.

“If we are not vaccinated, we will have a significant challenge going forward and we can easily call to mind Brazil where they have had to implement systems of mass graves,” Davidson-Celestine said.

“When we started this vaccination drive, we indicated our target…is to vaccinate at a minimum of 60 per cent of the adult population that would equate to about 45,000,” she added.

She continued: “I thought, initially, we would have been able to achieve that goal within seven days. However, after two or three months, we are still struggling with vaccinating persons on the island. Forty per cent is where we are at now, so we still have 60 per cent of the population to be vaccinated.”

She said unvaccinated people and COVID-positive people who venture into the public could cause a “significant medical crisis or medical challenge.”

The Tobago Regional Health Authority (TRHA) has also warned that a low vaccination rate and COVID-positive patients moving about in public could cause more COVID-related deaths.

The warning came as the TRHA reported that as of August 25, the island’s active COVID cases remain close to 500, with 475 in home isolation, 33 in state isolation, and five in the Intensive Care Unit.

There was also an additional death, bringing the total COVID-related deaths to 62 since March 2020.

Speaking on the vaccination rate, the TRHA’s Primary Care Nursing Manager Kathy-Ann Greenidge-Ottley said the authority is now targeting 50,100 people.

“Previously, we had a target of 45,000, but since we added the 12-18-year-olds, we just added the 5,100 students.”

The nurse said as of August 25, the TRHA gave 17,833 people their first dose of the vaccine and 12,690 the second shot.

She said the drive-through vaccination sites at the Shaw Park Cultural Complex and Cyd Gray stadium car parks resulted in 1,585 and 289 vaccinations, respectively.

She said up to yesterday, 951 students were vaccinated at secondary schools.

Meanwhile, vaccinated former COVID-positive patient Richard McFarlane also spoke at the briefing.

He said he experienced ‘long COVID.’ The situation is defined by medical practitioners as one in which patients experience long-term problems after a COVID infection.

McFarlane said he could not read nor write for months during his illness. However, after taking the COVID vaccine, he began feeling better. He encouraged taking the vaccine.