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Health Minister Terrance Deyalsingh, left and Chief Medical Officer Dr Roshan Parasram bounce elbows after yesterday’s post-Cabinet press briefing at the Diplomatic Centre, St Ann’s. An elbow bounce is now considered to be a safer form of greeting than a handshake or kiss in the wake of the global spread of the deadly coronavirus.

peter.christopher

@guardian.co.tt

At 2.45 pm yesterday, Trinidad and Tobago joined the list of over 150 countries across the world with a confirmed case of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).

“This case, it should be noted, is an imported case, it’s a 52-year-old male who flew into the country from Switzerland on Monday 9th of March. That is this Monday. It is worthwhile to note that since Monday, this person has been in self-isolation,” Minister of Health Terrence Deyalsingh said during a press conference at the ministry’s Park Street, Port-of-Spain headquarters yesterday. “The person would have contacted his health care professional on Wednesday 11th, which is yesterday. The necessary swabs were taken and CARPHA today at 2.45 pm contacted me and said we have our first confirmed case of COVID-19.”

He added, “The family has been in isolation since we were alerted since Wednesday the 11th. Contact tracing began on Wednesday, already begun, under the protocols that we use for tuberculosis.”

Deyalsingh said Dr Michelle Trotman, of the Caura hospital, would be conducting the task of contact tracing, which is the process of trying to retrace the patient’s steps and seeing whom he may have come into contact with since his arrival.

“It is a mild case so now arrangements are being made to have the patient transferred from his home via suitably equipped ambulance services with all PPE to the Caura facility, as it is a mild case,” Deyalsingh said.

Deyalsingh also urged the public not to panic following the announcement of the first COVID-19 case here.

Switzerland currently has over 650 COVID-19 cases, almost twice the amount recorded on Monday when the man, who is said to reside in Valsayn, arrived in Trinidad.

Switzerland has no direct flight to Trinidad and often multiple connecting flights have to be taken to get from the European nation to these shores. The cost common connecting flights are from London and Miami.

Minister of National Security Stuart Young confirmed that contact tracing was being done.

“The protocols have been implemented, the (contact) tracing is taking place,” said Young.

“The good news, from what I understand from our health experts, having sat with them for the last 45 minutes, is in this case, there was pretty much immediate isolation.”

Chief Medical Officer Dr Roshan Parasram confirmed that people who were aboard the flight the man arrived on were also contacted and may be subject to quarantine.

“The immediate contacts on the airplane, we are getting together a list of all the persons and they will be contacted in very short order and isolated and or quarantined as the need arises,” Parasram said.

The CMO also confirmed that the man was tested at the Piarco Airport but showed up as normal on their scanners.

Parasram meanwhile said 51 people had been tested for the virus, with the solitary case returning positive. He said there were no pending tests as of yesterday evening.

Following the announcement of the COVID-19 case, the Maria Regina Grade School advised parents that the school would be closed for one week after a parent of one of their students tested positive for the virus. The school is set to be sanitised and a further advisory will be issued to parents next week, the school said in a release to parent/guardians.

School principal Elizabeth Crouch said classes for SEA students will be conducted online.

Maple Leaf International School principal Richard Rozario also issued an advisory to parents and guardians yesterday, as one of their employees was the spouse of one of the pilots on the flight that took the Guyana victim to the Cheddi Jagan International Airport. Noting that the pilot had been asked by health officials to self-quarantine himself, Rozario said he would meet with the board to decide on an action plan and update the parent/guardian body thereafter.