“PATIENT ZERO” – the first confirmed case of coronavirus (covid19) in TT – will be transferred from his home to the Caura Chest Hospital for observation and treatment.
This was confirmed by Minister of Health Terrence Deyalsingh, at an emergency press briefing held on Thursday at the Ministry of Health’s head office on Park St, Port of Spain.
The patient, who was said to be a Swiss man who resides in TT, came into the country on Monday, but began exhibiting symptoms on Wednesday and self-isolated himself and his family. It was later confirmed that the man was a member of staff at Proman TT. Deyalsingh said the man would be transferred by medical officers with the appropriate personal protection equipment (PPE’s).
His family remains in home quarantine and are being monitored.
However all was calm when Newsday visited the Caura Chest Hospital on Thursday evening. Media were not allowed to enter the hospital premises. Visitors who came to pick up patients were being turned back at the gates, while the persons who were allowed to enter were issued blue masks by the security guard on duty. Both security guards were wearing masks and gloves. At one point, a security guard was overheard asking for a supply of hand sanitizer to be provided. At least four doctors were allowed into the premises and directed to the quarantine unit.
The patient had not been brought to the hospital by press time on Thursday.
Dr Michelle Trotman of Caura Hospital was tasked to engage in contact tracing for the man, to determine which people he came into contact with and arrange to have them tested. The process started on Wednesday, when the man contacted doctors.
Deyalsingh described the patient’s case as “mild.” He also pointed out that the case was an imported one, meaning the patient did not contract the disease while in TT.
Chief Medical Officer Dr Roshan Parasram said the people whom the patient was in immediate contact with – passengers on the plane whom he may have come into contact with while flying to TT – are also being contacted and will be screened. They will also be isolated and quarantined as the need arises, Parasram said.
“Normally we would do two seats in front and two seats behind (when conducting contact tracing). Generally speaking it is good in this case because he self-isolated at home, so his primary contacts were the people that were in the house with him.”
Patient's child's school closed
While Deyalsingh could not give much details about the patient, Newsday found out he is the parent of a child who attends a Maria Regina Private School.
A notification to parents sent by the school said:
“We have been informed by the minister of National Security, Mr Stuart Young, the Minister of Health and the Chief Medical Officer that a parent of one of our students has tested positive for the coronavirus.”
The note said the school will be closed on Friday, and for a week thereafter for a complete sanitisation of all classrooms by public health officials.
The school will also forward contact information of all pupils, parents and staff to the relevant authorities and classes for SEA students will be conducted online.
The note added that school would resume on the advice of the authorities.
Questions were still being raised by parents, students and teachers wanting more information on which student and which class the child of the patient came from.
Principal Elizabeth Crouch, in a TV interview said she was informed at about 5 pm about the parent's infection and the protocols to be followed going forward. She said the student was not at the school, but the school is being sanitised as a precaution. She added that officials from the ministry would be at the school on Friday.
"We survived a fire, we survived an earthquake, and now we have this," Crouch said.
Later, rumours began circulating on social media that Government had announced all schools in TT would be closed for two weeks.
That was refuted in an official release from Minister of Communications Donna Cox.
"The Ministry of Communications wishes to refute information circulating which states the Government announced 'that all workplaces with 50 employees or more, are to have paid mandatory leave to avoid the spread of the covid-19 Coronavirus beginning March 16, 2020. All schools will be closed for two weeks beginning March 23, 2020.'
"This is untrue. The Government made no such announcement."
Cox reminded the public to act responsibly and analyse all covid19-related information to ensure that the information is logical and from a reputable source.
Members of the public were directed to visit the Ministry of Health website: health.gov.tt and its related social media pages and Ministry of Communications website: moc.gov.tt, news.gov.tt and its related social media pages.
Minister: No need to panic
At the press conference, Deyalsingh and Young urged the public not to panic. Minister young said at the press conference protocols devised for the point where confirmed cases are finally found in TT, have been activated.
Young said all points of entry are being monitored by national security officers, and discussions between the health and security ministries were in discussions on whether or not to ramp up screening at official points of entry.
“There is no need to panic. We are telling people to just use your wits, use your common sense. At this stage there is nothing concerning us to take any further steps.
“The only need for concern is our elderly population. They need to take special precautions to self-regulate their activities in going out to the public and attending large events. The elderly population carry the bulk of the fatalities. The population needs to take a look at itself and how it conducts its public business.”
The minister advised that people wash their hands, cough into a flexed elbow, and avoid touching their faces.
Proman TT: Respect patient's privacy
A release from Proman TT issued later Thursday confirmed that a member of staff had tested positive for covid19.
"We have just received confirmation that a colleague has tested positive for covid19, and is currently receiving hospital treatment and further testing. We are in close contact with the colleague’s family and the TT health authorities to support in every way that we can."
The release added that the patient had begun to feel unwell after returning from "business-critical travel to Switzerland" on Monday and "had already followed business and global health guidance by placing themselves in precautionary self-isolation after travelling home from the airport by private vehicle. In alignment with our business protocols, we are undertaking contact tracking to provide all and any possible forms of support."
The company said it was managing its covid19 response in line with the World Health Organization (WHO) and local health authority guidance.
"The health and well-being of our people and our community is our top priority."
The company vowed to work with all relevant authorities and share updates as available.
"We kindly ask all parties to respect the privacy of our colleague and his family at this trying time."
PUT IN BOX
Personal hygiene measures are effective to protect yourself and your loved ones from covid19.
• Wash your hands properly with soap and water
• Use an alcohol-based hand sanitiser if water and soap are not available
• Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze
• Dispose of tissue immediately after using
• Cough and sneeze into the crook of your elbow if you do not have a tissue
• Avoid touching your face
• Stay home if you are ill
• Avoid close contact with people who have flu-like symptoms