More than a month after they left Trinidad and Tobago to board the Costa Favolosa cruise, 19 persons who have spent much of it in quarantine at Camp Balandra were finally allowed to go home.
Chief Medical Officer Dr Roshan Parasram confirmed their discharge from the facility during the Ministry of Health press conference which updated the country's COVID-19 situation.
"Those 19 persons would have gone through two incubation cycles almost while they were at Balandra. They would have been tested very early on in their stay, having a first negative then, and they actually received their first (second) negative after being swabbed on Thursday. So they had two negative tests, meeting actually the criteria for discharge even for positive patients," said Dr Parasram.
A group of over 70 Trinidadians attended the cruise, arriving on the Costa Favolosa on March 5. Less than two weeks later, three cases of the coronavirus were reported onboard the cruise ship. They were stranded off the coast of Guadeloupe.
68 persons had been housed at the facility since March 18, after they were returned to Trinidad.
The 19 allowed to go home were among the 22 persons who were left at the facility after 46 persons in that group had tested positive for the coronavirus within a week of their return. The other three were confirmed positive for the disease on Saturday and were taken to a convalescent facility, where they await a negative test.
This new positive result, for patients who had not otherwise shown symptoms, was a surprise the CMO admitted.
" In terms of those three persons that tested positive, they would have had a first negative just like the other 19 before them, they had a positive test, they had no symptoms. We are beginning to look at it, to see why they had a positive so long after having been negative and having no symptoms as well. So it was an unusual situation virologically," he said.
Dr Parasram, however, explained one of the three, was a spouse of another patient who had tested positive previously and a closer examination of the potential spread would be investigated.
"One of the patients who turned out to be positive had very close contact to another positive patient in Balandra, who is actually a spouse, so there was a close link, I am now getting the details from the County Medical Officer of Health for the other two patients to see if they had a closer arrangement to someone else who might have been positive in that group before. But definitely, they were all well isolated after having the group on the 26th that had their positives. They were wearing their PPE, there were only five nurses in there with them to ensure that they were following the necessary social distancing, handwashing etc while they were in there," he said, " I don't know if there was a possible link, there was the closeness of contact beyond the social distancing that was issued for that particular individual but we are taking a very very close look at it to see what is happening."
The discharged group from Balandra, however, will have to go into self-isolation procedures that have been implemented for all discharged COVID-19 patients despite never having tested positive for the virus.
"Mind you they were never positive, those 19 people. Out of an abundance of caution, we are still asking them and documents were prepared to the effect and given to every one of them and explanations by the county medical officer of health that they are to stay home for at least the next 7 days in the first instance when the county medical officer will call them every single day. To ensure they have no further symptoms developing over that period of time and that is our standard for anyone that is discharged from a hospital setting or from some sort of exposure. If the county medical officer of Health decides that they want to extend it for a further seven days for whatever reason, they can do so as well and they can utilize the quarantine act to do so," he said.
Earlier in the press conference, Minister of Health Terrence Deyalsingh confirmed they had set aside 838 beds for COVID-19 treatment.
Those beds were attributed as follows:
Couva Hospital: 230 beds
Augustus Long Hospital: 50 beds (Set to operational soon)
Caura: 100 beds
Arima Hospital: 94 beds (Set to be ready next week)
Tacarigua (Convalescent centre): 50 beds
Sangre Grande (Convalescent centre): 30 beds
UWI Debe campus (Convalescent centre) : 96 beds
Princess Elizabeth Home: 13 beds (To support POSGH mainly as an isolation centre)
NAPA: 60 beds (Isolation quarantine for healthcare workers)
Balandra: 40 beds(Isolation, quarantine facility and convalescent centre)
Tobago: 75 (Acute, severe and critical cases)
Deyalsingh said both the Couva and Caura Hospital are both currently at 18 per cent capacity.