The two latest novel coronavirus (COVID-19) cases announced by the Ministry of Health on Tuesday night were two Trinidadian women who were aboard the Costa Favolosa cruise ship that was anchored off Guadeloupe for several days after not being allowed to enter Martinique.
The ship was denied entry to Martinique after passengers on board were suspected of contracting the virus and French authorities there felt it was a critical health safety concern due to the global spread of COVID-19.
Sources at the Piarco International Airport told Guardian Media that the women returned home aboard Caribbean Airlines flight BW449 from Bridgetown, Barbados, around 8.25 pm on Tuesday.
Sources revealed that after getting the all-clear from Guadeloupe authorities to leave the ship, the women were tested on their way back home in both in Guadeloupe and Barbados, where they were in-transit to T&T, and the tests done in one of those two countries subsequently confirmed their positive status. However, it is unclear in which country their tests turned up positive.
A source who was present when the flight arrived at Piarco on Tuesday night and was familiar with the situation said: "Their positive results were sent to port health authorities here before they arrived."
Sources said in preparation for the women’s arrival in T&T on Tuesday night, an ambulance was called to the Piarco International Airport to pick them up for transportation to either the Caura Hospital or the Couva Hospital, where they will be quarantined and treated.
The ambulance, which Guardian Media saw accompanied by a van, drove into the airport on the western side through a private road, near the TT Post office, shortly after midnight. The ambulance left the airport's compound about half an hour later with the van in tow.
The flight crew and other passengers who were aboard the plane were also expected to be screened at the airport and asked to take measures to self-quarantine themselves for a 14-day period.
Guardian Media sent a Whatsapp message to Minister of Health Terrence Deyalsingh seeking further details about the situation close to 12.40 am Wednesday. Understandably, the minister might have been already in bed and the messages were not read. Another Ministry of Health official was also contacted by phone but they said they could not divulge any information about the two latest cases.
Around 11 pm on Tuesday night, however, the Ministry of Health announced via a media release that two new COVID-19 cases had been detected, bringing the number of confirmed cases in this country to seven. They also indicated that "all positive COVID-19 cases thus far have been imported."
The ministry reminded the public that "personal protective measures are the most effective tools against COVID-19” and that “social distancing is particularly critical at this time given the manner in which the disease is spread."
On Monday during a press conference to address measures taken to combat the spread of the virus, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley had said then that some 70 elderly nationals were up the Caribbean on a cruise ship - which had some COVID cases - and they were trying to return.
The Prime Minister said they could not be denied entry as they were citizens.
"They're coming home and when they do, they form part of our responsibility," Rowley had said then.
Minister of National Security Stuart Young in a media release on Tuesday said he and other members of the Government were communicating with some of the nationals aboard the cruise ship, as well as their family and friends
Young said Government was in communication with the French authorities to get accurate information on the status of our nationals on the ship and how those authorities intended to treat this situation and the latest information they had was that arrangements were being made to repatriate the T&T nationals. The release added that government agencies, in particular the Ministry of Health and Ministry of National Security, were prepared to receive the T&T nationals.