Chief medical officer Dr Roshan Parasram announced today that the Ministry of Health is entering a new phase in its treatment of Covid-19, with positive patients asked to home quarantine unless ‘moderately or severely ill’.
Within the next 48 hours, patients will also be discharged from Covid-19 step-down facilities without a negative swab once certain criteria are met.
“For symptomatic persons, if you spend 10 days from the date of onset of your symptoms plus three days with no symptoms at all,” said Dr Parasram, “we will discharge you to your home, giving you a quarantine order to stay at home for a further seven days […] without a diagnostic test being done.
“And you will be assured after that period that you won’t be able to transmit the virus to anyone else. So persons who are in step-down facilities, we will be able to discharge you quicker and that should happen between today and tomorrow.
“After your seven day quarantine period is over, you can continue to go about your daily activities.”
For asymptomatic persons, their initial 10-day period will start from the time of their positive test.
From now on, persons who test positive will be advised on how to safely self-quarantine at home. A list of all positive persons will be given to the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service (TTPS) to ensure that their quarantine orders are not breached.
County medical health officers will also phone positive persons twice daily to enquire about their symptoms and the health of others who reside at the same address. If necessary, tests will be conducted on other persons within the household.
Again, the officers will check the number of days since the onset of symptoms and without symptoms and add seven days to that, before persons can resume their lives under the ‘new normal’.
The exception will be ‘persons from high risk groups or persons who are moderately or seriously ill: experiencing difficulty in breathing, vomiting, extreme lethargy’. They will be taken by ambulance to either the Caura or Couva General Hospital.
“We are trying to ensure that the bed space is preserved for moderately to seriously ill persons,” said Dr Parasram.
Minister of Health Terrence Deyalsingh described the new phase as ‘escalated response’ and noted that the ‘force of law’ would be key to ensuring compliance and the safety of the nation. The government will soon take legislation to Parliament which will seek to make the wearing of masks mandatory and legally enforceable.
It is now nine days since Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley implemented the latest measures meant to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus. Dr Parasram noted too that the ‘number of mass gatherings’ earlier this month have drawn to a close.
“We had a series of events in August where we had a number of mass gatherings [with] persons not adhering to the public health guidelines,” said Dr Parasram. “And thereafter the subsequent bars continued to rise after those days. We had a peak of about 62 on the 14th of August… We actually see a decrease thereafter.”
It usually takes between five to six days after exposure to the coronavirus before symptoms occur. As such, the spike in cases on 14 August is likely to be linked to activity related to the 2020 General Election, which was held on 10 August.
Once persons follow the guidelines now, the CMO said ‘we expect to see a decrease in the rate of increase’.
“What will happen is determined by our actions over the next couple weeks,” he said. “If [a decrease in infections] does not happen, it means our behaviour has not changed significantly.”
Deyalsingh told the media that the backlog of tests stands at roughly 600 at present and the ministry hopes to clear those out within a week.
Dr Parasram confirmed too that three teenaged Venezuelans escaped from quarantine at Canada Hall in UWI, St Augustine and are now being tracked by police. The CMO said the trio were due to be released within two or three days and described their infectivity as ‘extremely low to none’.
Deyalsingh did note, though, that ‘young people’ have become the biggest spreaders of Covid-19 globally. In Jamaica, earlier this week, iconic track star Usain Bolt tested positive after hosting a birthday party in which virtually no guests wore masks.
In Trinidad and Tobago, Deyalsingh hopes that good sense prevails, as citizens prepare for another two or three years living with the highly contagious disease in its midst.
“Hopefully [once we adhere to health guidelines] the third wave is going to be smaller,” said Deyalsingh, “and the fourth wave will be even smaller.”
As of this morning, Trinidad and Tobago had 1,384 positive results since the onset of the pandemic with 1,177 active cases. There have been 15 deaths and 192 persons discharged.