In the past week, Trinidad and Tobago has had five people who contracted COVID-19 from an unknown source within the country, sprouting eight more cases through primary contacts and forcing some businesses to close for sanitisation exercises, the closure of three schools and the self-quarantining of hundreds of people.
The current number of cases stood at 156 as of last evening.These latest cases, according to the Chief Medical Officer Dr Roshan Parasram, have ushered in a new “phase” in T&T’s COVID-19 outbreak.
“In light of our recent findings, remembering that our last case—116—was on April 20 and our first new local case was detected on the 20th of July 2020, this is likely to be the start of a new phase of COVID-19 in Trinidad and Tobago,” Parasram said during a Ministry of Health virtual press conference yesterday.
The findings he cited came from recent contact tracing conducted for the five mysterious locally transmitted cases and showed that the source of infection for at least one of these latest cases could have been from interactions with an illegal immigrant/s.
“We have reason to believe that a person or persons from that group had been in contact with individuals who had recently managed to cross our borders,” Parasram said.
Asked about their success in finding the person/s who may be spreading the virus, Parasram said: “We have been working very closely with the Ministry of National Security. We would share whatever information we have, bearing in mind those persons need to be contacted for the reason—we have to ring-fence whoever it is or person/persons who would have been in contact because the plausible argument is they would have been positive prior (to coming to T&T.”
“It is an area of spread and is a risk to spreading to more persons in the community.
Chief Medical Officer Dr Roshan Parasram
“We need to find out—through National Security and other avenues—where those persons or person may be, find that individual, test, treat and then ring-fence any other contacts that may occur.”
Despite this, Minister of Health Terrence Deyalsingh maintained that Government is not considering any national lockdown measures at this time. Instead, he said they would employ targeted and strategic lockdowns of businesses and places exposed to the virus.
“What we are doing now is in keeping with public health measures that have always been a part of our public health landscape. What is heightened now, is we are using it in response to possible COVID outbreaks,” Deyalsingh said while referencing previous occasions where schools were shut down for other health threats such as foot and mouth disease.
“To continue to lockdown a country forever or for the foreseeable future will create many more problems than we are trying to solve.”
Since the mysterious outbreak, the ministry has launched investigations into the source of the infections and the reach of the resulting spread. It, however, maintains that the country is listed as experiencing “sporadic transmission” of the virus and class the cases as “locally transmitted.”