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After the second case of COVID-19 in the country was recently confirmed, the Ministry of Health of Trinidad and Tobago held a press conference in the afternoon of March 14, 2020 to update citizens on the current situation and on the mitigation measures implemented.
Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh described the Government's response to the situation caused by COVID-19 as “forceful” and “decisive” since the first travel restriction was instructed on January 30, adding that the two hospitals The main designated to treat cases of the disease are Caura (specialized in the treatment of respiratory diseases) and Couva, in the center of Trinidad. He added that if the number of cases increases, the Arima hospital, located in the north of the country, will provide additional capacity.
The director of thoracic medicine at Hospital Caura, Dr. Michelle Trotman, reported that the country's first case of COVID-19, a 52-year-old man, was improving. The doctors hope that he will fully recover. However, although the diagnosis of the second patient, a 66-year-old man, is more serious, it is also improving.
Having explained that the virus spreads if it has access to the lining of the eyes, nose and mouth, Trotman insisted on the need for the population to remain alert, wash their hands and maintain social distance. He said, “If it can't get in, it can't be a disease.” He said that this would need a change in the culture of the citizens of Tribago, since they are usually very close and loving.
Although most people who get ka COVID-19 will experience mild, flu-like symptoms, Trotman cautioned that older, immunosuppressed people should be cautious. He also reported that the ministry had developed a questionnaire with the aim of helping to locate suspected cases and that the population should feel confident about the preparedness and capacity of the public health system. Currently, suspected cases are being verified through nasopharyngeal samples.
The Accident and Emergency (A&E) departments of major hospitals now establish an intervention protocol focused on treating patients with flu-like symptoms. The General Hospital of Port of Spain, in the capital of the country, established a separate triage area for potential cases of COVID-19 as of March 15 and the ministry is paying greater attention to the health and safety of medical personnel, who are on the front line of this battle.
Visiting hours to state hospitals have been restricted. If visitors are allowed, it will be one at a time. Meanwhile, only a parent or legal guardian may be with pediatric patients in the ward.
In addition, the archbishop of the Catholic Church, Jason Gordon, suspended all Masses from March 14.
Homeland Security Minister Stuart Young, who also spoke at the press conference, made it clear that people should not act endangering others and said “personal and social responsibility” are important factors in the fight against COVID-19.
Since the two cases of the disease in Trinidad and Tobago are imported, he said that government-related travel has been halted, noting that any travel by citizens should be “essential” or “emergency”. Quenes must travel, they must immediately observe a quarantine of 14 days after returning home. This is what the 13 crew members of the Caribbean Airlines (CAL) flight did after it was confirmed that a passenger had tested positive for COVID-19 and then died.
The press was not clear on how the self-quarantine was to be implemented, but the County Medical Officer, Dr. Roshan Parasram, the authority in the country regarding quarantine, indicated that the Quarantine Law allows the police to guarantee compliance. force, if necessary. The law also allows the Police to enter premises, ships or aircraft without a warrant, and to arrest (also without a warrant) anyone if they believe that they have broken the law. Currently, anyone who “obstructs the execution” of the Quarantine Law can be sentenced to fines of Trinidad and Tobago Dollars 6000 (about USD 880) or six months in prison.
Caribbean Airlines has organized a team to respond to the emergency, has provided safety equipment for its employees, personal protective equipment and medical supplies and protocols. In addition, it has established a hotline for employees who need information or assistance regarding COVID-19. However, in light of Minister Young's revelation that airports are one of the most dangerous places, the press conference did not explain how far the precautionary measures established by the national airline would go. For example, when CAL flies to New York, its crew stays in Nassau County, which recently declared a state of emergency as the number of coronavirus cases on Long Island continues to increase.
Minister Deyalsingh asked citizens to be responsible and said that the “first important decision” to be made is to ignore the social networks that currently “are causing more damage than the coronavirus.”
Minister Young repeated the same and accused people of using social networks to do evil, cause panic and spread disinformation “for political reasons.” Trinidad and Tobago's next general election will be held in September 2020. There are only two “official sources” of information on COVID-19, Young emphasized, “the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Communications.”
Trinidad and Tobago Police have warned that, under the Summary Offenses Act, citizens can be fined or arrested for sharing disinformation.
Dr. Trotman added that social media has turned the pandemic into a “panic pandemic” and asked netizens to use social media to spread appropriate information about COVID-19 and to help health authorities “fight and defeat” the virus. He also said that “public behavior will change the landscape.”