National Security Minister, Stuart Young, says Government will be adjusting its new COVID-19 regulations under the Public Health Ordinance, to reduce the number of persons in public spaces not deemed essential, from ten to five.

The minister made the announcement this morning, during the Government’s daily media briefing to update the public on the COVID-19 outbreak in Trinidad and Tobago.

Changes to Public Health Ordinance

According to Minister Young, the adjustment is being made after consultation with medical experts, who have been tracking the movement of the virus here at home, and globally.  He is urging citizens to stay at home unless it is absolutely necessary, and when accessing essential services, to practice physical distancing inside and outside the establishments.

“The regulation will now read ‘during the period specified (which is until April 20th), persons shall not without reasonable justification, gather in any public place where the number of persons gathered at any time exceeds five’,” he stated. “This number is not a group that is together. So, in public places that are not deemed to be essential—for example supermarkets, banks, pharmacies—persons are not allowed in more than five.  All these measures are to protect the citizens of Trinidad and Tobago.”

Adjustments on the sea-bridge

The national security minister also revealed that adjustments will be made to the sea-bridge’s operations to facilitate essential travel only.

He says the cargo ferry—the Cabo Star—will continue with its regular service. However, the passenger ferries—the Jean De La Valette and the Galleons Passage—will have one sailing per day, until further notice.  The T&T Spirit has been taken off the route.

Minister Young also reminded citizens that the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service (TTPS), while it has not given extra powers under the new amendments to the Public Health Ordinance, does have the power to detain, question and arrest where necessary, if a citizen is found to be in contravention of the regulations—powers they already have under the law.

He reminded citizens that the Trinidad and Tobago Defence Force (TTDF) is operating in full support of the TTPS, during this current crisis period.

Minister Young also gave assurances that a probe has been launched into the viral video showing police and defence force officers involved in behaviour that was not sanctioned.  He says those officers will be dealt with.

Update from health ministry

Meanwhile, in its most recent update, the Ministry of Health is reporting that at this point in time, the number of deaths from the disease remains at three.

At this morning’s briefing, Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh reported that some 553 samples have been tested by the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA), of which 85 have been proven positive.

The minister notes that as of this morning, only one person has been discharged from hospital as recovered from COVID-19.

With regard to the 85 persons who tested positive for the disease, the health minister explains that 49 of them came from the group of nationals who returned from a cruise.

Minister Deyalsingh says that 46 out of the 49 came from the group of 68 nationals who returned from the cruise together; and the other three cases are those persons who returned from the same cruise, but separately.

Pregnancy and COVID-19

Acting Head of the Gynaecology and Obstetrics Department at the Port of Spain General Hospital, Dr Sally Ann Ishmael, made a special appeal to pregnant women and new mothers to continue observing all the hygiene protocols advised by the ministry, in order to reduce their risk of acquiring COVID-19.

Dr Ishmael warns that pregnant women can get COVID-19 like anyone else. She notes, however, that a healthy pregnant woman with a normal pregnancy who contracts the disease may not show symptoms or may have very mild symptoms.

In addition, she says that at this time, there is very little data available as to how COVID-19 affects pregnant women, and the possibility of transmission of the disease from mother to child. She says there is no evidence, thus far, that there is any impact to the baby’s development, or that it can be transmitted during childbirth or in vitro.

Dr Ishmael is encouraging pregnant women to continue visiting their ante-natal clinics, as per usual, although advising that times and days may be adjusted, to include the social distancing protocols required at this time, to limit possible exposure to COVID-19 by both patients and hospital staff.

She also advises mothers to continue breast feeding their babies, which will help them build all the natural immunity need, via the antibodies normally transmitted in breast milk.