A US citizen reportedly vacationing in Trinidad and Tobago is this country’s first COVID-19 death. The man, 77, reportedly passed away at the Couva Hospital around midday Wednesday.
The death was confirmed via a release by Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh Wednesday night, after he initially refused to do so to Guardian Media on two occasions after he was approached for the information.
Contacted via cell phone around 6.30 pm, Deyalsingh refused to comment but asked, “Would you like to learn that your parent has died in the media?”
Pressed further, Deyalsingh claimed a need to ensure the family’s privacy was respected before disconnecting the call.
Guardian Median also approached Deyalsingh after Wednesday’s session of Parliament after 7 pm and he also refused to comment before getting into his vehicle and departing.
Although Deyalsingh delayed confirming the death up to that time, some news sources had long done so on their official global statistics on cases and deaths. Up to 8 pm Wednesday, the total number of COVID-19 cases globally stood at 468,155 with the global death toll at 21,180. Apart from the death, T&T also recorded its 60 confirmed case Wednesday.
Guardian Media understands the man was among the first set of people in the country who were diagnosed with COVID-19. He was described as a “complicated case” and had other condition which made him susceptible to getting the virus.
Records show the man, who visits the country intermittently, presented with symptoms at the San Fernando General Hospital on March 13. The man was staying with his sister and niece at their San Fernando home.
Deyalsingh’s official release confirming the death was eventually issued at 8.10 pm.
Contacted on Wednesday, one of the man’s relatives declined to speak about the death at this time and appealed for the family’s privacy to be respected.
Meanwhile, residents of the community where the man was staying have reportedly expressed concern and alarm following the death. Having just emerged from a 14-day quarantine period, one man, who did not want to be named, expressed unease as he said his family had been in close contact with the man and his family.
While Government officials remained silent on the death up to late Wednesday, Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar also pre-empted them by confirming the death in a media release around 6 pm.
In the release, Persad-Bissessar called on Government to implement a nationwide shutdown of all non-essential services and businesses for 14 days, in the first instance, following the trends being observed in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“As responsible representatives of the people, it is the Opposition’s firm belief that the Government must take decisive and tough actions to preserve and protect the health of the citizens of our beloved nation.”
Regarding the nation’s first COVID-19 death, she said, “A COVID-19 positive patient at the Couva Hospital has died. We extend our deepest condolences, and we must be cognizant of the serious implications and consequences which may follow.”
She also said the 20,000 nationals who have returned to T&T in the last two weeks and are reportedly in self-quarantine must be monitored closely.
“This requires that the State identifies these persons and ensure that they self-isolate. Globally, the countries which have taken early, pre-emptive and decisive actions have proven to be those countries which have most effectively contained the rapid spread of the virus,” Persad-Bissessar said.
“The Government has recognised that moral suasion has not had the desired effect, and in spite of repeated calls for good sense to prevail, it is clear that some have not listened.
“The key to getting ahead of the Covid-19 pandemic is early decisive action, which contains the disease before it can overwhelm the public health system.”
She added, “We cannot afford to treat this issue lightly. The lives of our citizens are at risk, and every measure to protect them must be taken. This is about putting citizens first. We remain resolute that citizens must remain calm and keep themselves and their families safe, but the State must act.
“In this regard, I strongly urge the Prime Minister to immediately institute a fourteen (14) day shutdown of non-essential services and businesses, to better protect our citizens.”
Minister’s statement on patient’s death
“It is with great sadness that I announce that a patient, from Trinidad and Tobago, who tested positive for COVID-19, unfortunately died today, Wednesday 25th March 2020. I offer my sincere condolences to the family and loved ones of the patient. The patient was an elderly male with a pre-existing medical condition. In deference to the feelings of the family, the Ministry of Health delayed the public release of this information so that the family would have ample time to receive and process this information.”
“While this is a sad moment for all of us, we can only imagine how difficult this must be for the family. I urge everyone to take a humanistic approach and respect patient confidentiality and the family’s right to privacy at this time. Please allow them to mourn in peace. I would like to thank the medical team who acted professionally and provided the highest level of care to this patient, and continues to do so for all other patients.”
“I also use this opportunity to remind the public to remain calm and to diligently adhere to all the public health recommendations of the Ministry of Health relating to personal hygiene, social distancing, sanitization of frequently used surfaces, quarantine measures and other advisories outlined by the Ministry. I assure you all that, together, we do have the power to overcome this health challenge.”