The Prime Minister said the country is in watch and wait mode as the health ministry monitors the evolving covid19 situation.
CMO Dr Roshan Parasram said the covid19 situation in TT has evolved from sporadic cases to clusters of cases.
He said TT is listed under the World Health Organization as having sporadic cases which are intermittent and not linked to each other, but now there are clusters of cases linked geographically and in terms of time.
He said from case number 139 to 169, there were imported cases, induced cases (contact with importation), local cases and those pending investigation.
Health Ministry epidemiology department head Dr Avery Hinds said of the recent cases, seven had been repatriated and placed under quarantine and would not contribute to possible transmission. There is also one family cluster of six with the first person not having a clear epidemiological link and which gave rise to a primary cluster. In addition, there are two secondary clusters in a school setting and family friend setting and another cluster of five of which three were hanging out at a bar. Finally, a couple of cases that appear to have been exposed at a workplace where there was a lapse in the mechanisms such as hygiene and masks and four individuals with no clear epidemiological link.
He said contract tracing was ongoing for families, workplaces and other places, and public health measures such as closure of workplaces, business-places and schools would be implemented as necessary.
Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh said he had been assured that 500,000 masks had been distributed to the population but he did not see people using them.
Dr Rowley said there are two main measures government is taking at this time to attempt to suppress the spread of the virus as the country moves from sporadic cases to clustering of cases.
The first is that for the next two weeks, permanent secretaries have been instructed to reduce the number of public servants at work any one time by rotating them alphabetically or by another method.
“This will reduce the exposure of the population through lessening the number of people moving around. The contact tracing system is working, but we know there are cases where we don’t know where the virus originated and we will see if this two-week period with less movement is sufficient to reduce the population’s exposure to the virus.”
The second measure is that the number of people allowed to congregate in groups outdoors will be reduced from 25 to ten. He emphasised this did not apply to indoor spaces such as churches where protocols were in place and being followed. He appealed to political parties to keep their campaigning groups small.
Rowley said bars and schools had been two of the primary sources of infections and they would remain under close scrutiny.
"I believe we will keep the SEA exercise on watch for another few days and, if the trend continues in any significant way, next couple days we will have to act on the school system.
"The August 20 SEA examination date is still on, but the minute we get the impression the risk to children is too great, we will take action.”
He said bars, restaurants and public transport will be kept under watch for the next few days.
“Bars and restaurants will be open for the moment, but I am wondering why people have not been carried before the magistrate to account for their behaviour. There will be greater law enforcement to ensure the public health regulations are being followed.”
He said he had gone to south Trinidad recently and was very disappointed, as it did not seem people there were taking the situation seriously.
The new regulations will come into effect by Sunday morning at 6 am.
The Prime Minister said as of July 29, the number of people who had applied to leave TT was 5,580, of which 3,556 had been granted exemptions and 2,024 were finalising their travel arrangements. He said 5,539 people had applied to enter Trinidad, of which 2,250 had been granted exemptions and 3,289 were awaiting exemptions. He rubbished claims by the UNC leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar that government had left people stateless.
He noted that the closest contact point between TT and the US is Florida, which is currently experiencing an explosion of cases, and said the situation was being watched closely.
The Prime Minister said he was putting the country on notice.
“Government has made these decisions now. If we find there are further increases, we will make decisions as needed.”
As of Friday evening, the number of samples submitted were 7,950. The total number of cases since March stands at 169, with eight deaths and 132 persons discharged. There are 29 patients, with 28 at the Caura Hospital and one at the Couva Hospital.