Are parents prepared to take risk? CMO, Deyalsingh refuse to ‘bless’ youth sport activities

Minister of Health Terrence Deyalsingh and Chief Medical Officer Dr Roshan Parasram refused to give the green light for youth sport competition before September and conceded only that there are no regulations to prevent it.

At this morning’s virtual press conference, Dr Parasram was asked to revisit his statements, made on Saturday, that advised against youth sporting competition—in the face of a swift rebuttal from Commissioner of Police Gary Griffith.

Photo: Football Factory’s Pierce Dalton-Brown (top) is tackled by Pro Series’ Jasai Theophilus during RBYL action at the Queen’s Park Savannah on 30 March 2019.
(Copyright Allan V Crane/CA-Images/Wired868)

On Saturday, Griffith told Wired868 that Deyalsingh, Minister of National Security Stuart Young and Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi all gave the ‘green light’ for the Youth Pro League competition, which is due to kick off this weekend.

But Dr Parasram was unmoved by Griffith’s response. He acknowledged that youth sporting competition was legal—but he refused to give it his blessing.

“My statement, that I have said all along, is that children [activities] should be held back until September,” said the CMO. “The regulations as far as I know don’t speak to the age of people being allowed to conduct any [sporting] activity. [But] from my side that is where I stand.”

Deyalsingh appeared to support Dr Parasram’s view, as he pointed to ‘a change in the epidemiology of the infection where children are being more affected than before’.

“We are appealing to parents and organisers of children’s activities,” said the Minister of Health, “even though the regulations may not prohibit activity, if you want your child to be alive, if you want school to be open in September…”

Photo: (From left) CMO Dr Roshan Parasram, Health Minister Dr Terrence Deyalsingh, National Security Minister Stuart Young and Communications Minister Donna Cox at a press conference on Covid-19.

Deyalsingh put the responsibility for the health of young athletes on the shoulders of their respective parents.

“We cannot legislate for everything—there comes a time when parents have to make a decision,” he said. “These are your children [and] with the evidence of the changing epidemiology and how children under five are now dying, […] are you prepared to take that risk with your child?

“Forget the regulations, I am asking parents a direct question: are you now prepared, in the face of the mounting evidence, that this virus has changed the way it attacks children… Is that a risk you are prepared to take?

“I think every parent will have to answer that question.”

Griffith, whose 17-year-old son Gary Griffith III is training with the Men’s National Senior Team at present, again responded swiftly. Once more, he suggested that Dr Parasram’s stance was down to a supposed lack of knowledge about sports and young athletes.

Photo: Ex-Trinidad and Tobago National U-17 attacker Gary Griffith III (left) poses with his dad, Gary Griffith, and mother, Nicole Dyer-Griffith, at the Buju Banton concert on Easter Sunday.

“So Gary Griffith III, Justin Araujo-Wilson and Molik Khan, who are all under-18, should stop training but anyone who is 18 or over can continue—that is the height of nonsense,” the Commissioner of Police told Wired868. “Anybody who says that doesn’t understand the body development of a young athlete… Only people who never kick a lime in active team sport will think that way.

“So if you are 18 or 20 and playing first XI for your college [in the Secondary Schools Football League] only those children can train and not those who are under-18? That absolutely makes no sense.”

Griffith reminded the population of his responsibility, as opposed to the CMO’s.

“The CMO does not draft, approve or enforce laws,” said Griffith. “I am the person who enforce laws, based on what is approved in the regulation. And as the Commissioner of Police, I’m saying there is nothing to stop anyone from taking part in team sport.”

Griffith appeared to be pushing against an open door as far as the legality of team sport goes—as Deyalsingh and Dr Parasram made it clear that no current regulation prohibits team sport.

Young attempted to put both views into context.

Photo: FC Santa Rosa forward Ja-Shawn Thomas (centre) is surrounded by Central FC defenders during the RBNYL U-11 final at the Hasely Crawford Stadium on 1 July 2017.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/CA Images/Wired868)

“I’ve had numerous conversations with the commissioner of police including on Saturday, as has the minister of health,” said Young. “The CMO’s advice [about youth team sport] is exactly as he stated, but the regulations don’t prevent it.

“So at the end of the day, there is no law being broken. The medical advice is for them just to be cautious.”

Young also gave information on the ‘repatriation’ of citizens from abroad. At present, he said the Ministry of National Security has granted 4,550 exemptions while, over the coming week, the country will accept 76 persons from Grenada, 71 from Canada and 80 from the United Kingdom/Europe/Middle East.

Young acknowledged that the government should do more to pass information on to ‘stranded citizens’, although he said it is not unusual for the ministry to receive over 600 emails from such persons in a single day.

“Those are legitimate concerns [about passing information on to persons seeking exemptions] because I can understand […] the amount of anxiety that builds up with the lack of certainty,” said Young. “We are gong to try to improve the responses.”

Photo: Thousands of Trinidad and Tobago citizens are trying to get home at present from all over the globe.

Young said the Ministry of National Security is bringing citizens home on a ‘country by country basis’ at present and tried to explain the selection process.

“We look at the date of when the application is put in, we have been looking at the circumstances,” he said, “we have been looking at the elderly, sick, persons who have small babies, children; and that is how we are going through it in a very fair process that can stand up to the level of scrutiny.

“[…] We would try to provide as much information as we can.”

Editor’s Note: Commissioner of Police Gary Griffith subsequently issued a statement in which he suggested that Chief Medical Officer Dr Roshan Parasram’s warning about youth sport was ‘illogical’ and could divert youth to ‘criminal avenues’.

Click HERE to read Griffith’s statement. 

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  1. David E. Bratt CMT, MD, MPH

    Mr.,Deyalsingh says : “with the evidence of the changing epidemiology and how children under five are now dying, […] are you prepared to take that risk with your child?”

    I think Mr. Deyalsingh is guilty of fear tactics. He should be asked to produce the evidence that “children under five are now dying.” This is simply not happening even with the occasional case of severe Covid-19 in children.

    CDC reports that between February 1st and June 6th there were 42 deaths attributed to Covid-19 among children under age 15 in the USA. Mr. Deyalsingh should tell us where he is getting his stastics.

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