One of the 68 people who were quarantined at Camp Balandra after returning to Trinidad and Tobago from a Caribbean cruise where there was an outbreak of COVID-19 says Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh is “fanning” the public’s bad perception of the group with misinformation.
Speaking to Guardian Media on the condition of anonymity last evening, the woman said there was no “rebellion” at the Couva Hospital, where 40 of the 68 former cruise passengers are now being treated for COVID-19, as she said Deyalsingh tried to infer at a press conference yesterday.
“Apparently, the media tried to get to speak to some of the quarantined folk and that is not what was wanted, so the army was sent in for general security purposes,” the woman, who is among the batch of 28 still quarantine at Camp Balandra, said she was told by one of the Couva quarantined patients after news of Deyalsingh’s claim spread.
“These are all old people, so I don’t know why the impression was given that there was such a great rebellion down there. That is not at all the case, the average age of a person here is 70 years old, how much rebellion do you think they are really giving?”
At yesterday’s media briefing, Deyalsingh said, “Another example where people are not adhering to quarantine rules is and it gives me no pleasure in saying this, the 40 patients at Couva, we had to actually call the army in to talk to them to behave themselves to adhere to quarantine rules and to stop violating the zones that we had put out for them. We had to call in the army to talk to these 40 patients, you were quarantined for a reason.”
Denying this, however, the woman said she feels as though the minister response was due to the group’s letter to him last week highlighting what they felt were the unsuitable conditions at Camp Balandra.
The letter, written by former attorney general Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj, requested that the facilities at Camp Balandra be improved to comply with social distancing. The letter said up to 13 people were being kept in one room at the facility at the time, which could have facilitated the spread of the virus.
“And I really feel that in some ways, he has fanned the sort of bad perception of us in the public. I can’t fathom why a letter that was written to you very quietly, saying these are the issues, can you please address it, that you would bring that up in a press conference and give no details on the context of the letter. What we’re your expectations?
“And then today, you make a claim that the army was sent in for older people, some of them 80 years old, what sense does that make?”
She noted that there are also soldiers currently stationed at Camp Balandra for security.
“My issue with the minister is that he puts things out that leaves so much to the imagination of the people and I can’t make sense of it because obviously if he says that, people envision the worst. But no, it’s general security measures and even here we have soldiers and it’s not because people are trying to escape, it’s a general security measure which goes with any quarantine, nobody is trying to climb any gate here,” she said.
Asked about the current conditions with only 28 people left at Balandra, the woman said it has become more bearable as there are now four people to one room. She was, however, in high praise of the nurses sent in to treat with the group, saying they have been very generous and giving with their time.
She said the remaining 28 are now being tested twice a day and so far none of them have exhibited any symptoms of the virus. However, she said several of the 40 who tested positive last week also did not display symptoms of the virus.