Dr Rowley maintains restrictions but hints at improvements, encouraged by TKR success

EPL Properties Ltd

Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley confirmed today that current public health restrictions will stay in place until 11 October, as a means of thwarting the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Those measures include: the limiting of public gatherings to five persons, as well as no in-house dining, drinking, contact sport, churches and all places of worship, gyms, water parks, casinos and members clubs, cinemas, and no access to beaches and rivers.

Photo: Is life still a beach?
A young man strolls along Maracas Bay during the Covid-19 pandemic on 23 April 2020.
(Copyright Ghansham Mohammed/GhanShyam Photography/Wired868)

Public sector workers are required to work on a rotation policy while schools and learning institutions will operate online.

When the government’s current restrictions first came into effect on 17 August, Trinidad and Tobago had 497 positives from 11,748 unique patient tests, with 348 active cases and 10 deaths.

This morning, the Ministry of Health revealed that the country’s current figures stand at 2,892 positives from 23,508 unique patient tests, with 2,076 active cases and 50 deaths.

Rowley said, although he has not seen the reduction he would like, the twin island republic would be worse off but for his government’s intervention.

“We can take comfort in the fact that our condition has not worsened,” said the prime minister.

Photo: Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley.
(Copyright Office of the Parliament 2020)

Dr Avery Hinds, the technical director of the Ministry of Health’s Epidemiology Division, suggested that the daily tally of new infections was slowly decreasing.

“We are starting to see the numbers look a little more favourable, although it is still increasing,” said Hinds. “[…] We are slowing that runaway train that a pandemic can be […] but we are not out of the woods.”

Since an amendment to the public health regulations made it mandatory for citizens to wear masks in public from 31 August, the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service (TTPS) has issued 225 tickets for failure to abide by that law.

And the prime minister hinted at a recent Bayside Towers pool party when he urged police officers to do everything they can to protect the population.

“It is not for me to tell the police commissioner how to interpret the law,” said Rowley, “but as prime minister I can say the law must apply to everyone—regardless of race, creed, class or social standing—so as to protect us in Trinidad and Tobago from those who are not prepared to listen.”

Photo: Covid-19 regulation adherence: Bayside Towers-style…

Minister of National Security Stuart Young stressed too that the TTPS can intervene and make arrests in any circumstance that it deems a threat to public safety, regardless of if it occurs in public or private settings.

Thus far, according to Minister of Health Terrence Deyalsingh, over 90 per cent of Covid-19 related deaths were patients aged over 60 with co-morbidities, which were generally hypertension and diabetes but also obesity.

Dr Michelle Trotman, thoracic medical director at the Caura Hospital, noted that patients were sometimes unaware that they had co-morbidities, as they had not been previously diagnosed.

The entire head table stressed that the danger of parties, like the one at the Bayside Towers, is that while young persons might survive the virus, it can be a death sentence to their vulnerable relatives.

Deyalsingh pointed out that a few of their earlier fatalities were incapacitated and had not left their house in up to two years. However, a relative or loved one brought the disease to their home. Hinds also revealed that, during contact tracing, you would often hear about ‘a little birthday lime’ at the home of an infected person.

Photo: Health care professionals treat a Covid-19 patient in Chicago.
(Copyright Chicago Tribune)

“Anything that brings different webs of social networks together, no matter how small,” said Hinds, “can lead to infections.”

There was some good news for maxi-taxi operators as Rowley said he reviewed a proposed design that would allow maxis to operate at 65 per cent capacity—rather than 50—and is due to implement that change.

There will be an adjustment in the public sector too, as Rowley said all workers required to help in the preparation of the national budget are now deemed ‘essential’ and are required to work normal shifts. Budget Day is 5 October.

Rowley said the virus cost the country an estimated TT$10 billion already, based solely on the changes in our daily lives. Globally, the impact was valued at US$375 billion per month.

However, the prime minister suggested that the success of the Trinbago Knight Riders (TKR) and the recent Caribbean Premier League (CPL) T20 cricket tournament showed example that life can go on, despite the presence of the virus—once one is willing to be disciplined and follow medical advice.

Photo: Trinbago Knight riders batsman Lendl Simmons celebrates during their CPL final triumph over the St Lucia Zouks at the Brian Lara Cricket Academy in Tarouba on 10 September.
Looking on is Zouks bowler Kesrick Williams.
(Copyright Randy Brooks/CPL T20 via Getty Images)

“Even though the virus is there, we can create an environment to continue to do what we have to do,” said Rowley. “[…] Let that [CPL] template be a model to us.”

Editor’s Note: Click HERE to read response from Commissioner of Police Gary Griffith who accused Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley of throwing the Police Service under the bus.

Trinidad and Tobago vs Covid-19 (in numbers)

Local infections of Covid-19 in first wave (27 March to 26 April)

  • 50 cases in 31 days with 8 deaths.

Local infections of Covid-19 in second wave (20 July to 17 August)

  • 436 cases in 29 days with 4 deaths.

Local infections of Covid-19 since gov’t roll-backs (18 August to 12 September)

  • 2,200 cases in 25 days with 38 deaths.
Image: Taking the fight to Covid-19…

The Ministry of Health reminds members of the public to adhere to the ‘new normal’ and:

  • Wear a mask over your nose and mouth when you go out in public;
  • Keep your distance from others (six feet);
  • Stay home if you are ill;
  • Clean then sanitise surfaces, such as tabletops, door knobs and cell phones;
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water or use an alcohol-based sanitiser;
  • Cough into a tissue or into the crook of your elbow;
  • Avoid touching your face.

Persons are urged to call Covid-19 hotline numbers: 877-WELL, 87-SWRHA or 877-3742 (Trinidad) and 800-HEAL (Tobago) if they feel unwell; or they can report a possible breach of Covid-19 regulations by calling 555, or sending messages—inclusive of photographs and videos—to the Police App or via Whats App to 482-GARY.

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About Lasana Liburd

Lasana Liburd
Lasana Liburd is the managing director and chief editor at Wired868.com and a journalist with over 20 years experience at several Trinidad and Tobago and international publications including Play the Game, World Soccer, UK Guardian and the Trinidad Express.

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