Health Secretary Tracy Davidson-Celestine has sought to appease Tobagonians' concerns about the novel coronavirus (covid19) entering the island through international flights.
Addressing the post executive council news conference on Thursday at the division's headquarters, Habib Building, Wilson Road, Scarborough, Davidson-Celestine assured the situation is under control.
It was Davidson-Celestine's first media briefing since being appointed last week as the new health secretary. She replaced Dr Agatha Carrington, who resigned on February 28.Saying Tobago has direct flights coming from Europe and the United States, Davidson-Celestine said although the country's borders are now closed, returning nationals will be required to isolate for 14 days upon arriving.
She said a facility has been identified to quarantine returning citizens and is already in use."I wish to inform the public that we have since secured a facility where those persons will be quarantined and yesterday evening (Wednesday), we had the first of such flights coming into Tobago and those (16) persons are in our quarantine facility."
She added the covid19 task force, over which she presides, has identified sites to quarantine and treat confirmed covid19 patients, who have been separated into two categories.
Davidson-Celestine explained: "If a person is positive and well (asymptomatic), that individual will be taken into one of our rehabilitation and empowerment centres and so, together with that rehabilitation centre, the TEMA isolation facility and the geriatric ward, we now have 32 spaces on-hand for treating with covid persons who are positive but well."
With respect to patients testing positive who are showing symptoms, Davidson-Celestine said such individuals will be taken into an isolation facility at the Scarborough Hospital and will be stabilised for 24 to 48 hours.
"Like everything else, we have facilities in Tobago but if it is necessary, those persons will be transported to Trinidad where they can seek further care."Davidson-Celestine said if individuals require intensive care, there is an identified area at the hospital to stabilise those patients."
At this current time, the hospital as we have it, can isolate patients at any one time."She assured all protocols are in place to treat with any suspected cases of covid19 in Tobago.
"I wish to emphasise to the public that all protocols are in place. We have had a system that has been tried and tested before and we are ready to treat with any suspected case of covid 19."We have tested self isolation at home. We have tested isolation and quarantine at the hospital (Scarborough General) and we have also tested quarantine at places that we have leased."She said staff have also been equipped with the necessary tools to treat effectively with suspected cases. "We are very ready."
Davidson-Celestine said a hotline is expected to be established for those who feel they have developed symptoms associated with the virus. The hotline will be manned by senior doctors who will advise on a course of action. She added people can also visit their nearest health centre.Davidson-Celestine also announced a committee has been established to examine the impact of covid19 on Tobago's economy.
The committee is headed by Finance Secretary Joel Jack and includes representatives from the Divisions of Tourism, Culture and Transportation Division and Community Development, Enterprise Development and Labour and the business community.