Ramesh: 68 not kept apart in Balandra quarantine facility

A soldier closes the gate at the Seventh-Day Adventist Church Camp Balandra in Toco on Tuesday where 68 people were placed in quarantine as a precuation for covid19. Forty of them have since tested positive for the virus, Government announced on Saturday. - Ayanna Kinsale
A soldier closes the gate at the Seventh-Day Adventist Church Camp Balandra in Toco on Tuesday where 68 people were placed in quarantine as a precuation for covid19. Forty of them have since tested positive for the virus, Government announced on Saturday. - Ayanna Kinsale

THE 68 people who were in quarantine as a precaution against covid19 at a Balandra facility felt so unsafe that social distancing was not being practised that they hired senior counsel Ramesh Maharaj to ask Government to adhere to its own guidelines.

Forty of them have since tested positive for the virus.

On Saturday, Maharaj confirmed he wrote two letters to Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi and the Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh on the issue. He added that on Friday he also wrote to the Prime Minister.

According to Maharaj, the letters to the ministers were not pre-action protocols and did not request that those in quarantine be released.

“My clients were abiding by the quarantine rules. They wanted to be tested. They also wanted to address the accommodation which they felt was not in keeping with the social distancing. They (the Government) did not provide for social distancing and my clients had issues with them not having cleaning agents and sanitizers.”

He said the second letter was sent after his clients said they were tested but social distancing was still not being enforced as the accommodation was not sufficient to keep people apart.

After his second letter was not acknowledged by noon Friday, he wrote to Dr Rowley and copied the two letters.

“I think it is my duty to the public to put into the public domain the context of the letters so as to not misconstrue its intention” Maharaj said.

The 68 were passengers on a cruise ship off Guadeloupe and were flown home on Tuesday and taken to the Seventh-Day Adventist Church camp in Balandra. They were tested on Thursday and on Friday night the results showed 40 had tested positive.

On Saturday morning, Deyalsingh said the 40 were taken to the Couva Hospital as a precaution as those who tested positive were all part of the "at-risk community."

He added the hospital is equipped with enough intensive care unit beds and equipment to treat severe cases.

When contacted on Saturday, Al-Rawi said he found Maharaj's letters were pre-mature. He confirmed the letters did not ask for that those in quarantine be released but asked that they be tested. He said some of them, by the time the letters were sent, showed no symptoms of the virus. He said Maharaj could have called the ministers rather than issue the letters.

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"Ramesh: 68 not kept apart in Balandra quarantine facility"

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