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T&T suffers first Covid-19 related death, MoH mum on claims regarding deceased patient

Trinidad and Tobago has its first novel coronavirus death, after an elderly patient, believed to be 78 years old, passed away today.

Wired868 was first alerted of the Covid-19 related death at 5.30pm and subsequently obtained corroboration from a senior employee at the Ministry of Health. However it would be another three hours before the government confirmed the tragic news.

Photo: Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh (left) and National Security Minister Stuart Young discuss the novel coronavirus.

In the meantime, opposition leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar was the first to make a statement on the death, which she did via her Facebook page at roughly 6.30pm.

“In deference to the feelings of the family, the Ministry of Health delayed the public release of this information so that the family would have ample time to receive and process this information,” said Deyalsingh, in a press release at around 8.15pm.

The Ministry of Health did not state where the patient had died or respond to media questions regarding the alleged date of admission for the elderly man.

The deceased patient, who apparently lived in New York but travelled intermittently to Trinidad, allegedly flew into the country on 5 February 2020, which was before the 2020 Carnival. And, according to medical information passed on to Wired868, the patient presented himself to the San Fernando General Hospital on 13 March 2020.

Later that evening, the Ministry of Health declared a 52 year old Swiss man who resides in Trinidad to be ‘patient zero’. The Swiss had just returned from Switzerland and the government said the case was imported. It is a claim they repeated for all declared cases.

Photo: Medical personnel conduct coronavirus testing in the parking lot outside of Raymond James Stadium on 25 March 25 2020 in Tampa, Florida.
The testing is being done by appointment only. (Copyright AP Photo/Chris O’Meara)

The usual incubation period for the novel coronavirus, according to the World Health Organisation, is 14 days. Today’s patient appeared to have flown in to the Piarco International Airport on 5 February, which was 37 days before he presented.

A senior official at the Ministry of Health confirmed that the Caura Hospital did not have its first patient until the Swiss. It is uncertain whether the San Fernando patient ever moved to Caura.

So far, the Ministry of Health has informed the public of 60 positive cases after 370 tests, carried out by the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA).

Earlier this week, Deyalsingh said the government will have its own operational Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) machine available at the Eric Williams Medical Complex by the end of the week, which is capable of testing up to 180 cases per day.

Within the next six weeks, the country should have three more PCR machines available.

The Costa Favolosa cruise is believed responsible for 44 of the country’s Covid-19 cases, as more than the half of its reported 73 local passengers tested positive.

Photo: Members of the public are asked to wash their hands properly to help prevent the spread of Covid-19.

(Statement from Minister of Health Terrence Deyalsingh)

It is with great sadness that I announce that a patient from Trinidad and Tobago, who tested positive for Covid-19, unfortunately died today [on] Wednesday 25 March 2020. I offer my sincere condolences to the family and loved ones of the patient.

The patient was an elderly male with a pre-existing medical condition.

In deference to the feelings of the family, the Ministry of Health delayed the public release of this information so that the family would have ample time to receive and process this information.

While this is a sad moment for all of us, we can only imagine how difficult this must be for the family. I urge everyone to take a humanistic approach and respect patient confidentiality and the family’s right to privacy at this time.

Please allow them to mourn in peace.

I would like to thank the medical team who acted professionally and provided the highest level of care to this patient, and continues to do so for all other patients.

I also use this opportunity to remind the public to remain calm and to diligently adhere to all the public health recommendations of the Ministry of Health relating to personal hygiene, social distancing, sanitisation of frequently used services, quarantine measures and other advisories outlined by the Ministry.

I assure you all that, together, we do have the power to overcome this health challenge.

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