Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh says the Ministry of Health is activating emergency protocols- inclusive of thermal body scanning at all ports of entry- in response to the coronavirus which was first reported in China in December 2019.
In an interview with Guardian Media, Deyalsingh said although the likelihood of the virus reaching Trinidad and Tobago is remote, the Ministry is taking all possible precautions.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), the Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that are known to cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). A novel Coronavirus (CoV) is a new strain of coronavirus that has not been previously identified in humans.
WHO says a typical presentation of MERS-CoV disease is fever, cough and shortness of breath. Pneumonia is a common finding, but not always present. Gastrointestinal symptoms, including diarrhoea, have also been reported. Severe illness can cause respiratory failure that requires mechanical ventilation and support in an intensive care unit.
The virus appears to cause more severe disease in older people, people with weakened immune systems, and those with chronic diseases such as renal disease, cancer, chronic lung disease, and diabetes.
“We will be introducing thermal scanning, looking at the forms that captains have to fill out on passenger loads to determine whether anyone travelling with them is ill and activating the isolation capacity at the Caura Hospital from today (Tuesday),” Deyalsingh said this morning.
Deyalsingh said he will visit the Piarco International Airport after Cabinet on Thursday to ensure that all protocols are working and being adhered to.
He is advising the public to take all precautions to protect themselves, just as with any other contagious flu.
“One of the best ways to limit transmission is basic hygienic practices, such as properly washing your hands, covering your nose and mouth when you cough or sneeze, seek medical attention as soon as possible if you are sick and isolate yourself if you are sick, do not go to work, do not go to school and do not go into public places where you can infect others.”
He said those who have recently been sick also need to take extra precautions.
“People who have any virus and who are immuno-compromised will be a higher risk of contracting any infectious disease so they should take special precautions.”