The Division of Health, Wellness and Family Development is ramping up its public education drive in the face of widespread misinformation about the novel coronavirus – covid-19 – in Tobago.
Dr Tiffany Hoyte, Ag County Medical Officer of Health, said so on Wednesday during a news conference at the division's head office, Habib Building,Wilson Road, Scarborough.
The news conference was called to allay Tobagonians' fears about the virus after a woman who was studying in China on a scholarship, returned to the island last Friday.
Hoyte made it clear the student, who was initially quarantined at her home in Louis D'Or before being taken to the Scarborough Hospital on Monday after developing a low fever, is not infected with coronavirus.
Since news of her return the woman and her family have received threats via social media.
"Tests were done and all tests were negative... She has, currently, absolutely no symptoms," Hote told reporters on Wednesday.
"The individual is in good health and continues to be monitored daily as in keeping with standards, even though she is negative. We will follow the standards and procedures to monitor her daily."
Hoyte added: "When the individual was in the hospital, of all the temperature checks that were done, she did not have a fever. All of her temperature checks were normal and she had absolutely no symptoms."
Hoyte complained, though, about the misinformation that is being peddled on social media.
"The only thing is that persons have been posting stuff in the media and I would ask us to... we are dealing with a human being, and to just be more considerate with what persons post."
She added this is one of the major challenges confronting the health sector on the island.
"A lot of people, they get a part of the truth and then they sensationalise it and it causes panic. So, one of the things is to make sure that we provide the information to the public real time. Press releases will go out as things unfold."
Noting the virus was detected in December, Hoyte said it is understandable people would have concerns.
"It is a new situation and it is only natural that persons are afraid of the unknown."
However, she warned people to seek information about the virus from credible sources such as the World Health Organisation, Pan American Health Organisation and Caribbean Public Health Agency.
"Don't take information from social media. We are going to extend our public education campaign because we want to make sure the information that the public is getting is accurate and to ensure that persons are informed of what they need to protect themselves and their families."
Hoyte said primary and secondary health workers will also be sensitised at a symposium that is being planned in the near future.
In the meantime, she said the division has taken all necessary steps to prevent the virus from entering Tobago.
"We have planned for every contingency – in the air port or sea port or comes in at the health centre, hospitals. All possible scenarios are planned for."
Health Secretary Dr Agatha Carrington, Dr Ian Sammy, head, Accident and Emergency Department, Scarborough Hospital and Dr Roxanne Mitchell, General manager, Primary Care Services also addressed the news conference.