While the Ministry of Health refuses to confirm that Williamsville father Victor Mootiram died of COVID-19 at the San Fernando General Hospital, some residents are now panicking over possible community spread.
Guardian Media visited the community along Garth Road where the elderly man and his family resided yesterday but no one was home and neighbours said the Mootiram family had been quarantined.
Neighbours admitted, however, that they are now worried Mootiram’s relatives in the community interacted with him and his family.
When the news team visited Mootiram’s relatives, they said only his son could share any information. However, calls to his son’s phone were not answered Thursday.
Several neighbours said when Mootiram fell ill he went to a doctor who initially treated him for the flu. However, his condition worsened and he was taken to the San Fernando General Hospital where he was tested for the virus.
However, they claimed Mootiram died before he was moved to the Couva Hospital.
At yesterday’s Health Ministry media conference, Chief Medical Officer Dr Roshan Parasram was asked at which facility the fifth COVID-19 casualty had died. However, Parasram declined to answer.
Guardian Media also asked South-West Regional Health Authority (SWRHA) CEO Dr Brian Armour about whether reports the latest COVID victim had died at the San Fernando hospital were true. But Armour said based on patient confidentiality he could not give that information, adding that the ministry was the only authorised body to speak on those matters.
The map shared by the ministry yesterday revealed someone who contracted the virus lived in Williamsville.
However, a worker at the hospital said workers there were now concerned about possible exposure.
“All the patients close to that patient, or who interacted with that patient, as well as the staff (whatever the category) would have potentially been exposed.
“This means they should be quarantined and tested if they have symptoms. Of course, this will not be done since they will try to keep it quiet,” the worker said.
In Williamsville yesterday, resident Faizool Ramiah, a neighbour of the deceased, said he was unaware that Mootiram had contracted the virus until he learned of his death.
“The information I gathered was that he was ill and they took him to the San Fernando General Hospital where he died. The information I received was that he went to a funeral and there were relatives from away. The information what people from around here gave was that he contracted it there,” Ramiah said.
“I feel very sad and I feel very scared knowing that it is not too far from me, so I have to take the necessary precautions indoors and self-quarantine with my family. I go to work, not daily, but for this period I’ve been in and out. Of course, the necessary must take place because the other people, nobody, is coming out of their houses.”
Another neighbour said it was also scary knowing that someone so close contracted the virus and whose family was out and about interacting with others in the community.
The Garth Road Open Bible Church, where Mootiram worshipped, extended condolences to Mootiram’s family yesterday. However, they also assured members that strict guidelines were followed at their recent gathering after members of the congregation expressed concerns about possible exposure.
A post on the church’s Facebook page stated that the last service was held on March 15.
“For members and the public’s safety and peace of mind, we would like to ensure you all that our church closely followed the strict guidelines set by our national board and government. Our last congregational service was on Sunday 15 March, following which all services were suspended. Our members adhered to strict protocol and were not in contact with each other in our attempts to help flatten the curve.
“While our pastor, Rev Seepersad Khadan and his wife were concerned about their dear friend’s health, no physical contact was made during this time in efforts to be compliant with guidelines given for safe practice.”
The church was also aggrieved that they could not provide Mootiram with a proper funeral due to the new COVID-19 regulation that prohibits the gathering of more than five people.
Several posts on social media also paid tribute to Mootiram.
Mootiram’s death came hours after the virus claimed the life of Carenage resident Vernise Lodge.
Lodge, who was the first female claimed by the virus, was one of 68 passengers from an ill-fated Caribbean cruise aboard the Costa Favalosa who recently returned home and were immediately quarantined at Camp Balandra, before she was taken to the Couva Hospital along with 48 others after they tested positive.