The number of nationals abroad who are allowed to re-enter the country will depend on the ability of the parallel healthcare system to receive them. This according to Principal Medical Officer Dr Maryam Abdool-Richardson, who spoke at the 26 October Ministry of Health media conference.
While the principal medical officer clarified that the Ministry of National Security had ultimate responsibility for how many citizens were repatriated, there were health factors that contributed to the decision. She mentioned social distancing on aircraft coming from high-risk countries such as the US.
There was also a turnaround time of about three days for cleaning and maintenance, along with an airing out period— the World Health Organization recommends about two weeks—for rooms that were occupied by Covid-19 patients.
Over the last seven days, 240 citizens were repatriated from the US and Barbados, with a further 280 expected to return to T&T this week. Dr Abdool-Richardson said that the number of returning citizens will be ramped up to 300 every 10 days. So far, she said, 10% of those who have returned to the country have tested positive for Covid-19.
She noted with relaxed conditions having been announced by the prime minister on Saturday, there would be more for the parallel health system to prepare for.
“We have to consider the ability and resilience of the parallel healthcare system to 1) accommodate repatriated citizens from high-risk countries who may be positive, as well as the positive cases that have arisen from our community transmission,” she said.
When citizens return from abroad they spend seven days quarantined at a health facility followed by a further seven days self-quarantined at home.
Dr Richards said the parallel healthcare system had 1551 beds across 19 health facilities and considered an overall occupancy of 70% to be the limiting rate. She noted that the intensive care unit (ICU) was at 5% capacity and the high dependency unit (HDU) at 15%, well below its 80% trigger level.
Also speaking at the media conference, epidemiologist Dr Avery Hinds stopped short of giving specific numbers either for occupancy rates or the number of positive cases that would trigger a change in the government’s current response to the pandemic.
“It’s not a situation where we’re going to take a fixed number and go, ‘when we get to this number, we’re going to make changes.’“ he said. Instead, he said, the government will be looking at at the rates at which these numbers increased and assess the parallel healthcare system’s ability to manage the changes.
To date, there have been 106 Covid-19 related deaths recorded. There were 24 new positive cases over the last 24 hours with 1303 total active cases. In total, T&T has recorded 5535 infections.
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, doorknobs and cell phones;
- Wash your hands often with soap and water or use an alcohol-based sanitiser;
- Cough into a tissue or 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 WhatsApp to 482-GARY.