There will be no new restrictions or protocols implemented by the Government despite the discovery of an imported case of COVID-19 infected with the UK variant (B117). But Minister of Health Terrence Deyalsingh, the Government is urging the country to remain vigilant.
Speaking during the ministry’s virtual news conference yesterday, Deyalsingh described the incident as an “index case” which was successfully contained by the existing quarantine protocols.
He assured, however, that the Government would not be making any “knee-jerk” or “panicked” reactions to the incident but instead would be guided by scientific data.
“It’s a good thing we had our policies in place because this variant – this index case, this one case has been successfully contained…It is one case so far but we are continually reviewing the evidence,” he said.
“At this point in time, it is not the intention of the Ministry of Health to recommend any restrictions – further restrictions. That is counter-productive.”
He said, however, that the development had heightened their concern and again pleaded with the population to adhere to all the guidelines and protocols.
“Now is the time for all of us to be even more vigilant,” Deyalsingh said.
He added that the discovery of the UK variant in this country had still not impacted the plan to reopen schools. He indicated that if any decision is made about schools, it will be communicated to the public by the Minister of Education Dr Nyan Gadsby-Dolly.
On Thursday, the University of the West Indies’ Faculty of Medical Sciences confirmed the presence of the new strain through genomic sequencing.
According to Chief Medical Officer Dr Roshan Parasram, the variant was found in a sample taken from someone who came into the country earlier this month. He said the person left the United Kingdom on January 6 and headed to Barbados before coming to T&T alone. The person was taken directly to Paria Suites, San Fernando, for quarantine, as per protocol for returning nationals. After testing positive, the patient was taken to a step-down facility and then transferred to the Couva Multi-Training Facility.
Parasram said there were 48 other passengers on the flight, all of whom would have been put into quarantine facilities.
“All of them would have already spent their 14-day period in those facilities and of course, the ones who would have gone home would have had a day six negative before they were discharged,” he said.
Meanwhile, two former ministers of health agreed with the Government’s current approach not to heighten restrictions just yet.
Dr Hamza Rafeeq told Guardian Media yesterday that he agreed with Deyalsingh’s approach to the discovery.
“The minister is correct in that there is nothing new to add to the protocols. The only thing to add is that the population needs to be a bit more vigilant with respect to the present protocol,” he said.
Fuad Khan also shared the same sentiment as Rafeeq. However, he believes it is time to roll back restrictions.
“The regulations and protocol right now have gone overboard. They have gone to the extreme. In fact, they’re supposed to relax some of them,” Khan said.
Health officials have already dismissed the notion of relaxing restrictions at this stage, as cases again appear to be on an upward trend.
The Ministry of Health confirmed six additional cases of the virus yesterday, two of whom were returning nationals. The new infections came from samples taken between January 18 and 20. The ministry also released 17 people from its care while 14 were released from home self-isolation. Active cases now stand at 332 while deaths remain at 133.