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A police officer supervises the crowd outside the Social Service Centre on Ciparo Street in San Fernando yesterday. Most of them wore their face masks to protect themselves from COVID-19

Government has been able to distribute 8,000 masks for protection against COVID-19 in Trinidad and Tobago recently and up to 20,000 more are being obtained this weekend, says Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh.

Replying to Opposition queries in Parliament yesterday, Deyalsingh said distribution of the maks promised by Government had already started through the Foundation for the Enhancement and Enrichment of Life (FEEL) since the week before last week. At that time, he said 6,000 masks were distributed in Trinidad and 2,000 in Tobago and 15,000 to 20,000 more were being obtained this weekend.

“Between NGOs and Government, there will be hundreds of thousands,” Deyalsingh said.

He said the masks are being done at no cost to the Health Ministry.

“We’re not buying it, there’s no tiefing and corruption – Mamoo not making mask. This is of no direct cost to taxpayers, the private sector is partnering with FEEL and it’s available to citizens free,” he said.

Nipdec is also evaluating tenders this week for more mask suppliers

Deyalsingh also dismissed a query from San Juan MP Fuad Khan about reconsidering the total closure of delivery/pick up orders by the foodservice industry. While Khan said the sector has worsened since the COVID situation, Deyalsingh said it was a troubling query coming from a medical doctor.

Deyalsingh said the newest information on the virus from international experts was that young people in their 20s, 30s, and 40s with COVID-19 were having blood clotting problems and dying. He said it would be reckless of Government to ignore this new scientific data and simply reopen the economy without regard for lives.

“This new evidence has thrown a spanner into the works,” he added, saying decisions going forward would be made on scientific information and data.

Khan asked if Government would continue to keep the economy closed because of a “minuscule” number of deaths. Deyalsingh said he was glad to hear the Opposition speaking of “minuscule deaths” as “it means we’ve done a wonderful job and I thank the Opposition for recognising that”.

On another query Deyalsingh also said to date, five private labs had applied to do COVID-19 testing but none were approved.

Social Development Minister Camille Robinson-Regis meanwhile admitted that not all parents would have received food cards but they were hoping to cover most of them.

In response to a question from MP David Lee, Robinson-Regis said she was surprised he’d asked that since MPs were involved and each were given 500 food cards which were supposed to help 20,500 families.

Lee said there were 3,000 in his constituency alone and 500 cards may not have helped the situation. Robinson-Regis said most parents would have gotten food cards and only a “minuscule” amount may not have received this.