Story by RHONDOR DOWLAT-ROSTANT
Following the temporary closure of the Arouca Police Station, there are reports that more COVID-19 scares have occurred at two other police stations—in Sangre Grande and San Fernando.
Officers at the south station are said to be very concerned; however, precautionary measures are reported to be in place.
The situation in San Fernando
Guardian Media understands that a police officer reported to duty last week displaying flu-like symptoms. He went to the hospital and was told to quarantine himself.
It is alleged that the officer contacted the Ministry of Health earlier this week and was told that a team will contact him. However, up to press time, the officer reportedly was still waiting on the team to get himself tested.
Meanwhile, senior police officers at the San Fernando Police Station are fearful and say they would like the entire staff there to be equipped with the required Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), as well as have the station properly sanitised.
Asked if the officer had a travel history, the senior said "no" but could not say who the officer may have come in contact with.
Scare at Sangre Grande Police Station
On Thursday night, officers at the Sangre Grande police station said a woman police constable was told to self-quarantine as she began to show signs of the flu. Senior officers said her husband had returned recently from a trip abroad.
"The woman police officer have been reporting for duty regular since and have recently developed flu like symptoms,” sources close to the station said. “The officers are very much concerned now and most likely they will also have to go into self-quarantine. We are waiting to see what's next."
Scare at Arouca Police Station
On Thursday 26 March, the Commissioner of Police ordered that the Arouca Police Station be shut-down, as an officer with recent travel history began displaying symptoms of COVID-19. That officer reported for duty and now all officers assigned at that police station have been told to self-quarantine.
A senior officer confirmed that the officer had a runny nose and sore throat.
At about 1:10 am on Thursday, the COVID-19 hotline was contacted, and officials there instructed that the officer leave the station and go into self-quarantine. He was told that if any further symptoms developed within the next seven days, he would have to undergo testing for COVID-19.
Guardian Media understands the Arouca Police Station was sanitized by the other officers on duty. However, there were no masks or any gloves available, according to a police source.
The source said the officers were subsequently asked to contact officers from the Arima Police Station so that they can go to the Arima District Hospital and attempt to get some gloves and masks for the officers who were still at the Arouca Police Station.
In an immediate response, Commissioner of Police, Gary Griffith ordered the closure of the Arouca Police Station.
In a news release, Griffith said the officer had left the country on March 4 without the necessary approval and knowledge and went to St Maarten.
"He returned to Trinidad on March 7 and instead of going into self-quarantine, returned to work the following day. The officer developed the flu-like symptoms this week and as a precautionary measure, all officers of the Arouca Police Station were ordered to go on self-quarantine, " Griffith said.
Police union calls for PPE
Outside the Arouca Police Station on Thursday, several officers complained that there were no PPEs provided for them.
President of the T&T Police Service Social and Welfare Association, Inspector Gideon Dickson admitted that there isn't sufficient PPE for officers and called on corporate T&T to partner with the police service in providing PPE for officers.
He also said a request was sent to the Ministry of National Security asking for help with respect to the supply of PPE as well.
Dickson said a protocol policy was put out for officers and urged them to be guided by it.
He also appealed to officers to practice proper hygiene.
"I'm also asking members of the public to only make their way to any police station if deemed absolutely necessary," Dickson said.
With regards to the situation at the San Fernando Police Station, Dickson said he was not aware but assured that he will look into the situation immediately.