Despite displaying flu-like symptoms, one person who ignored covid19 guidelines may have exposed hundreds in the country to the virus.
The patient has no travel history, visited several businesses and interacted with relatives and family members over the last seven days.
After visiting a health centre on Monday, the patient was isolated and tested positive on Tuesday, bringing the total of covid19 cases to 139. An additional covid19 case was announced on Wednesday morning – a national who returned from Saudi Arabia, which brought the number to 140.
But in its 6 pm update, the Ministry of Health announced there was yet another case for which an epidemiological investigation has been initiated. This person, health officials said, is not linked to patient 139.
The number of confirmed cases now stands at 141. Of that number, eight patients have died and 127 recovered and were discharged.
Reacting to patient 139 on Wednesday morning, the ministry acted quickly, telling two businesses to immediately shut down for thorough sanitisation after a primary contact, who interacted with the patient, visited them.
Pennywise branches on Charlotte Street and Long Circular Mall, St James were closed. Staff at the Charlotte Street branch were visibly worried. By late afternoon, that worry turned into relief when health officials told them the person who visited the stores had tested negative for the virus and the store was given the go-ahead to resume operations.
The store’s CEO Dalvi Paladee said he was happy with the eventual outcome.
“This could have gone a different way. If they (the person) had tested positive, staff might have had to go into quarantine.” Paladee said while he was relieved, the company intends to strengthen its protocols on sanitisation and personal protective equipment.
The potential covid19-positive person also visited First Citizens San Juan branch, but the bank said on Wednesday it was unaffected, as the customer only used its ATM machine. The bank said it regularly sanitises its machines.
At Wednesday’s Ministry of Health covid19 briefing, Chief Medical Officer Dr Roshan Parasram said patient 139 visited several places, and in addition, "In the household itself, there would have been upwards of eight persons visiting or residing in that household."
He said the ministry will continue contact tracing, and testing of all primary and secondary contacts will continue throughout the week. Parasram estimates the ministry will take "a few days of investigation as well as testing to identify exactly where the case originated.”
It is 80 days since TT reported a "case of this nature," Parasram said. The last case, similar to patient 139, was recorded on April 26, "pending epidemiological investigation."
Minister of Health Terrence Deyalsingh said while many people may have been exposed, there are no plans to reimplement restrictions.
"It's a matter of how much risk you are willing to take. You can't shut down the country and shut down an the economy for the long term. So,at this point in time, there is no active consideration of rolling back anything. What we are doing is being very careful."
He continued to plead with people to wear masks when out in public, maintain physical distancing and sanitise regularly.
"We will continue to track and have persons in self-quarantine home until we can test everyone to try to figure out this particular incident so that it doesn't spread and go beyond this case or any additional cases in the population.
"And I'm not blaming anybody, but if that one person had heeded the advice to stay home when they were ill, then Pennywise wouldn't have to shut down. FCB would not have to shut down.
"I'm not complaining, because that's what we do. But think about how all this could have been avoided if that individual had just stayed home when they were ill and sought medical advice."
Deyalsingh said more people are becoming complacent and he noticed, in the last week, fewer people are wearing masks.
WITH REPORTING BY RYAN HAMILTON-DAVIS