Dr Anthony Thompson

Loyse Vincent

Health officials in Tobago have said that reports of 18 COVID-19 cases, including medical staff and patients on the Male Medical Ward at the Scarborough Regional Hospital, is not an outbreak but in fact a cluster.

And while officials also confirmed that there was also another cluster at the Canaan Health Centre, they say the situation is not uncommon in large organizations and medical facilities.

Speaking at the weekly Tobago Regional Health Authority’s) (TRHA) COVID-19 press conference yesterday member of the TRHA COVID-19 Response Team Dr Anthony Thompson assured that the hospital is fully operational and remains unaffected by cluster because when cases were identified the necessary protocols are activated.

Thompson spoke of how the cluster was identified

He said, “A patient was admitted for symptoms unrelated to COVID, had been discharged and then while at home developed a fever and came back to the facility. They re-presented at the hospital at which point they were then identified as being COVID positive.”

He said after the cases were identified, the requisite persons were placed in quarantine, asymptomatic persons were asked to isolate at home, symptomatic people who were also given a positive result were also asked to remain at home.

According to Thompson, the ward and common staff areas at the hospital were also sanitised.

The TRHA initiated Antigen testing last week and although the process is still undergoing the validation process, Thompson said public concerns about the accuracy of the method of testing is misplaced.

He said there were incidents where persons who were originally given a negative COVID-19 result were later given a positive result.

He assured that the method is accurate as a positive result from an Antigen test usually gets a corresponding positive result from a PCR test.

And the persons infected during the cluster were sufficiently screened.

He said, “Antigen positive persons were pulled out, the rest we evaluated using Genomic testing and these persons were informed the following day and then persons were asked to stay home.”

Thompson also denied that the TRHA was downplaying the urgency of the situation by stating that the 18 cases were from a pool of 1200 employees at the entire hospital.

He said once the situation arose the matter was dealt with urgently as both staff and patients were tested and the space was sanitized. He also assured that all protocols were observed and the implementation of the Antigen testing method ensured that the matter was dealt with quickly as patients were able to get results in a short space of time, between 30 minutes to one hour.