Government's intention to transfer 29 recovering COVID-19 patients from the Couva Hospital to a building in the quiet community of Brooklyn Settlement, Sangre Grande, has raised concerns among the residents who live in close proximity to the building. The building, at Bridge Street, was previously used as a home for the elderly.
In fact, the residents staged a fiery protest on the roadway on Friday night to show their disapproval with the plan. Police and soldiers who responded to the trouble call eventually put out the fire along the roadway which had prevented vehicles from entering the small community.
Residents told Guardian Media that around 5.30 pm on Friday, two people from the Eastern Regional Health Authority arrived and spoke to three individuals in the area about the plan. This triggered the protest hours later.
When Guardian Media returned to the area on Saturday, residents who live in the close-knit community said they were concerned for their health, in particular some 30-plus elderly villagers whose ages range from 82 to 89.
"We are frightened by the move as worldwide this deadly virus is killing the elderly people whose ages are over 60 years. We are enjoying our ripe ages, having fun with our great-grandchildren and family members, why they want us dead now,” a pensioner from the area said.
Unelda Francis, 88, speaking to Guardian Media while standing in the verandah of her Bridge Road home, which is next to the building designated for housing the COVID-19 patients, said she was not in favour of the move.
She said “I doh want that, not at all, and I'm calling upon the relevant authorities to immediately desist from this unhealthy idea. I'm appealing to the Government to allow us to enjoy the rest of our lives until God is ready for us.
"Have a heart, Prime Minister and Minister of Health and have the patients taken to another place, please!"
Latchmin, 89, who also spoke from the inside her house, said she was very displeased and was hurting.
"I am afraid and bringing these people to the building opposite to my house spells danger to villagers and the elderly."
Leaning on his stick, Julius, 82, who has been living in the area for over 60 years, said the Government has never done anything for the people of Brooklyn and was now apparently seeking to send them to their grave.
"I cannot understand this idea and whose it was to come and bring panic and fear to the elderly and members of this peaceful community in Brooklyn, Sangre Grande. Many people are living beyond 80 years and they are using this act to get rid of us. We will protest and do everything that is available to stop this crisis coming into Brooklyn."
Julien asked, "Why Brooklyn when they have already established a quarantine place at Balandra? Why they have to come and disturb our lives?"
David Clarke, who lives two houses from the building in contention, said it spelled a health danger for the community.
"To begin with, this building cannot house 29 people," he said. "It is too small to accommodate this number. They speaking about social distancing, this cannot happen at this building.
"The building is not fenced (to the back). As any human beings, these patients will slip through the back and end up on the Eastern Main Road, Sangre Grande, where they may purchase cigarettes and spread the COVID-19 infection, which will increase the number of cases and even death to our elderly citizens."
Clarke said he had a discussion with his two sons, a soldier and a police officer, who both supported his views and concluded that disaster awaited the people of the community.
He advised the Government to use the army who had all the necessary equipment to clear a piece of state land away from close-knit communities and have the COVID-19 patients housed there to avoid the panic, stress and frustration for the residents.
A resident, who only gave his name as Phillip, said this move could never be fair to them. "Sangre Grande has not recorded one case of the COVID-19 virus and the Ministry of Health must allow good sense to prevail and allow this community to remain free of the COVID-19 virus," he said.
"Why choose Brooklyn?" he asked.
Millan Phillip, a resident, said their MP, Glenda Jennings-Smith, had not visited the people of Brooklyn on this urgent health issue.
He said, however, Anil Juteram, chairman of the Sangre Grande Regional Corporation had visited and was giving them his support.
Juteram said his concern was protecting the interest of the people of the region.