Deyalsingh: Maraval RC case put over 200 contacts at risk, but new Covid-19 ‘lockdown’ not being considered

The decision to send an ill child to SEA classes at Maraval RC Primary School has forced the Ministry of Health to conduct contact tracing for 19 primary contacts and ‘upwards of 200 second contacts’, as Trinidad and Tobago reels from a sudden ‘upsurge’ in Covid-19 cases.

Over the past week, the twin island republic had 11 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus—five positive results came from the direct family of ‘patient number 142’, which includes three children.

Photo: An empty classroom during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Maraval RC School, which had 76 students preparing for exams, has been closed.

Minister of Health Terrence Deyalsingh confirmed today that the child was ‘known to be ill by their parent’ but sent to classes anyway. He admitted too that the guilty parent was not the only one who has taken chances of late. He pointed to the rise in people taking public transport or conducting business without masks and even reacting with hostility to requests to do the right thing.

In the previous two cases of local transmission, tests of primary contacts produced negative results.

“Collectively, as a society, we have dropped our guard,” said Deyalsingh. “but now we have to recommit to the public health measures that are so simple but so vital.

“[…] One of the things we were looking at this weekend was starting to reopen the entertainment industry; but the events from Wednesday to today have put that on the back burner.”

Notably, though, the government has not responded to the spike with a rollback of the  liberties enjoyed by the public at present. Instead, Deyalsingh and Chief Medical Officer Dr Roshan Parasram urged citizens to sanitise, wear masks, adhere to physical distancing guidelines and stay at home if they feel unwell.

Photo: A child is swabbed for Covid-19.

“From today, we are not making masks mandatory by law but it is a strong, strong recommendation that masks be worn once you are out in public,” said Deyalsingh, as he urged business owners to ensure these guidelines are followed to ‘minimise future business closures’.

He urged Trinidad and Tobago to get used to the ‘new normal’, since ‘the virus is going to be with us for the foreseeable future—for the next year or two’.

“We are not at this time contemplating any further lockdown of the society or any further restrictions,” he said.

Questioned on Commissioner of Police Gary Griffith’s keenness to hold his Commissioner’s Cup football tournament—which caters to over 2,000 children between the ages of 12 and 18—Minister of National Security Stuart Young reiterated that it is legal for him to proceed, while Deyalsingh aimed his message at parents rather than Griffith.

“While there are no regulations to stop anyone from playing sport, we have constantly asked parents to do the responsible thing,” said the minister of health. “[…] I would let them burn out all that excess energy at home.”

Image: Covid-19 on the playground.
(Copyright Gary Mavel)

Although the man on the street will not face new restrictions, Deyalsingh said they will ‘strictly enforce’ the one patient per visitor rule at hospitals—which he stressed was not the same as one visitor at a time. No visitors will be permitted at homes for the aged.

Young noted that the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service (TTPS) has been relatively ‘flexible’ of late but is now advised to more stringently enforce Covid-19 regulations including public gatherings of more than 25 persons, inclusive of political campaigning.

On the topic of illegal immigrants, he warned action against the facilitators of such activity—from the boat drivers to the people who house them. At present, the TTPS is said to be investigating videos related to that issue.

Any locals who participate in such illegal activities will be prosecuted, said Young, while legal Venezuelan migrants involved will have their permission to stay in this country revoked and would be deported.

“Anybody with available information, please call 555 and present [the] credible information you may have on these illegal activities,” said Young. “[…] It is impossible to guard every square inch of our maritime borders. The Coast Guard is doing the best it can, the Police is doing the best it can.”

Photo: Masked police officers conduct a traffic exercise.
(via TTPS)

At present, Trinidad and Tobago has 13 hospitalised patients with Covid-19 between the Caura and Couva Hospitals, which have a combined 275 beds. So below five percent of the beds at the respective hospitals are in use.

There are also 154 persons in quarantine.

The number of samples sent to the Caribbean Public Health Agency (Carpha) for testing is 6,500, which comprises 4,967 unique persons and 1,533 repeat tests. There have been 147 positive results with 128 discharges and eight deaths.

The number of community tests, so far, are 2,515. Notably, 233 of those tests came in the last week, with a spike of persons presenting to health centres with symptoms.

As usual, Deyalsingh sought to drive home the fact that Trinidad and Tobago is in better shape than most.

The case load per million for the rest of the world is 2,055.5 with a death rate of 82.6. In the twin island republic, he said, the case load is 105 per million with a death rate of six.

We are, the health minister said, not in a bad place. But it is a time for caution—and vigilance.

Image: Ministry of Health Covid-19 guidelines.
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