Frustrated at languishing at sea for four months, some Royal Caribbean International crew members in quarantine at State facilities say the government is risking their lives.
The workers argue that the Ministry of Health is not telling the whole story at its COVID-19 updates. Of great concern was the mixture of high-risk crew members who quarantined in the Enchantment of the Seas’ Orange and Yellow zones and are now sharing communal spaces with those who were in the Green zone.
The zones signify the level of exposure to the virus.
The Red zone was for those with COVID-19.
Orange was for those showing symptoms and in need of monitoring. Yellow was for those who stepped down from the Red or Orange zones and are still in need of monitoring. Green were those with no symptoms.
The crew members noted that there was a spread among cruise ship passengers who the ministry previously quarantined in Camp Balandra where they shared communal facilities.
“By moving us into communal living facilities, the Minister of Health and the CMO have now placed us all at greater risk of contracting the virus should there be any latent or asymptomatic cases.
This action is counter-intuitive and has proven to be very distressing, serving only to add to our growing angst and frustration,” a crew member said.
A few crew members tested positive for COVID-19 so far.
However, crew members said those members most likely boarded the vessel in Barbados, already infected. They said there was no room for exposure as each member had a cabin.
A cruise ship employee told Guardian Media said the remaining 290-plus crew members who already submitted to two nasopharyngeal tests and were negative are now mandated to undergo a third test ‘out of an abundance of caution’.
The member said health officials separated the crew among at least six facilities: Debe, Couva, Tacarigua, Caura, Sangre Grande and Balandra.
“Arriving at the assigned facility on June 30, it is astonishing that the Minister of Health, who publicly speculated about the suitability and effectiveness of our quarantine facilities onboard the Enchantment of the Seas (where we were isolated in single berth cabins with our own toilets and baths), sees nothing wrong with having us moved to communal living facilities—open wards with shared living and public spaces, including toilets and baths. Not even a curtain or a screen to separate you from your neighbour.
Another crew member at another facility said it was unfair that those who tested negative twice have to endure further quarantine while those who initially tested positive are now home.
Crew members also complained that the food is unhealthy.
At yesterday’s COVID-19 update, Chief Medical Officer Dr Roshan Parasram said quarantine for people returning to T&T and those who tested positive have different protocols.
He said those who tested negative twice are still at risk of developing symptoms. He said the last two out of six crew members who initially tested positive were again swabbed after seven days and following two negative results, 24 hours apart, got discharged on Tuesday. Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh said this protocol was always there and applied to the cruise ship passengers who quarantined in Balandra.
Parasram said those who tested positive were from the Orange and Yellow zones. The remaining crew members are low-risk. He said the ministry is just using the facilities as holding bays until another round of nasopharyngeal swabbing on Friday. Once the results return by Saturday and are negative, they can discharge members on Sunday.
Responding to the crew members’ complaints of six people in one room, Parasram said this should not be the case and would check on the matter. He said health personnel are ensuring that crew members wear masks, distance themselves from each other and sanitise.