THA Minority leader and president of the Public Services Association (PSA) Watson Duke is calling on the Water and Sewage Authority (WASA) to say whether a PSA member who worked at WASA's Tobago office died of covid19 on Saturday.
Duke also wants WASA's top officials to say if employees were put at risk by allowing the PSA member to report for work while ill.
On Sunday, Duke said on Facebook that staff had told management that the worker, a female security officer, was coughing and had a high fever, but nothing was done about it. Instead, the concerned workers were allegedly told to continue reporting for duty.
Duke said: “Did the management of WASA Tobago allow someone suspected of covid19 to infect several employees? Did the CEO of WASA knowingly allow someone who is a covid19 suspect to be working in and among workers, placing thereby those other workers' lives in direct threat of covid?"
He said the guard, who was contracted through a private security firm and based at a water-treatment plant in the east, went to work coughing last week.
He said he had seen an e-mail exchange between WASA managers in Tobago and Trinidad
, which said the medical advice was: "Let the person who is a suspect case come to work still."
Newsday sought to obtain a copy of the alleged WASA e-mail exchange from Duke but he refused.
"The person had high fever; the person had cold working in a WASA station. Workers complained about this individual...working in and around WASA workers,” Duke said.
If any WASA employees contract the virus, he said, the PSA will take legal action.
“If any essential service worker who is working contracts covid19 in the line of their duty, they should be paid immediately $1.5 million."
Duke said while he's at home, he doesn't wish to engage in any type of union activities, but he might be forced to shut down a few organisations.
Questioned on Monday about the suspected covid19 death at the daily virtual press briefings, Minister of Health Terrence Deyalsingh said the policy in place by local authorities is that autopsies will not be done for covid19.
"The Chief Medical Officer on this very forum on numerous occasions has said, without speaking to the particular case in Tobago, that if you have a confirmed case of death due to covid19 that no autopsy is performed. I'm just giving you that fact. I would urge everyone to ignore social media, we would be guided by updates from the Ministry of Health."
Pressed further for more details about the claims, Deyalsingh said: "I think the best way I can deal with claims by Mr Duke is just simply to ignore it."
In a release, WASA said appropriate health and safety measures have been undertaken.
WASA said it was following "all protocols under its business continuity plan and Ministry of Health guidelines, regarding the response to possible covid19 cases within the authority.”
It said it had no previous reports that the security officer had shown flu-like symptoms while on duty.
WASA said contact tracing measures had been implemented and staff who may have been in contact with her were told to self-quarantine, pending the results of the autopsy.
WASA sent condolences to her family.
The Division of Health, Wellness and Family Development said county medical officer of health for Tobago Dr Tiffany Hoyte had been contacted after the guard died.
“To date, there is no confirmation that the security officer died as a result of covid19,” it said, also pointing out that she had not been suspected of having covid19 before she died, and hence had not been swabbed.
The division said like WASA, it had not received any earlier reports that the guard had felt ill or had flu-like symptoms at work.