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Minister of Health Terrence Deyalsingh, replies to a question posed by the Member of Parliament for Fyzabad in the House of Representatives yesterday.

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Frontline workers are not prepared with the right equipment and procedures for an outbreak of COVID-19, say officials of the Public Service Association (PSA) and the T&T Registered Nurses Association (TTRNA).

“There are a couple of gaps in San Fernando and Tobago which have highlighted that we are not yet prepared,” TTRNA president Idi Stuart said in a brief interview yesterday.

“Not much training is happening on the ground and the training that is happening is very haphazard and it is not sufficient,” he added.

Stuart said the WHO (World Health Organisation) recommended that if any health worker feels their safety is not being considered and the necessary PPE (personal protective equipment) are not there “they have full right to remove themselves from any dangerous situation.” He said this recommendation will be adhered to by nurses.

The TTRNA is seeking a meeting with the Ministry of Health so the gaps it has identified can be addressed before it’s too late.

PSA President Watson Duke said similar deficiencies are being faced by the frontline workers under his association’s remit.

“The port health workers at the airport, the seaport, the watch officers, the immigration officers, Customs (and) Excise officers, healthcare professionals—they feel vulnerable at this time. There have been no education exercises for them, there is no particular environment that makes them feel safe,” he said.

Duke cited reports that some 3,387 health workers in China had been infected with COVID-19 leaving more than a dozen dead.

In Parliament yesterday Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh outlined the country’s plan thus far.

“With these measures, the assurance is given to this honourable house that the Ministry of Health is continuously monitoring the progress of the COVID-19 within the global, regional and local context and will scale up its overall response plan with sufficient resources to allow for building local capacity, networks among agencies within the public and private sectors and training and most importantly protection for our frontline personnel with full PPE, hazmat suits, etcetera,” he said.