THE female airline passenger who arrived at Piarco International Airport, on December 9, infected with the omicron strain of covid19 must feel the full range of the law for an alleged false declaration of her status, National Security Minister Fitzgerald Hinds said on Friday.
Hinds was replying to an urgent question by Caroni East MP Dr Rishad Seecheran in the House of Representatives.
He said the woman had left JFK International Airport in New York to go to Panama and then came to Trinidad on a Copa Airlines flight.
He said TT uses a Travel Pass system of advance passenger information to help manage the virus and its variants. Travel applications require they be done in truthfulness, and with dignity and honour, he said.
"It appears from the information available to me that the passenger made a false declaration and on that basis the Travel Pass was issued to her.
"But in the way we do the business upon arrival in Trinidad and Tobago the information uploaded would be verified and I would like to congratulate the Ministry of Health, the Port Health officials actually, who were able by virtue of their work at the airport to identify that the passenger had uploaded a PCR that was positive as opposed to negative."
He said Port Health staff had identified the problem and isolated it for everyone's protection.
"The passenger is now in the safe confines of one of our step-down facilities. The other passengers who may have travelled in proximity to her have also been isolated in the protection of the people of Trinidad and Tobago, and the matter is under police investigation.
"We have passed regulations here (Parliament) to make it a very severe offence, with severe penalties, in such circumstances and I am assured the police are making haste with an investigation.
"Quite frankly, I'm looking to the full range of the law being applied and sanctions to go with it in the circumstances."
Oropouche East MP Dr Roodal Moonilal asked how the woman could have breached Travel Pass system.
Hinds replied, "The member for Oropouche East would hardly know because he happens to be the only person in TT who entered without getting a Travel Pass in these circumstances. The member would hardly understand what I meant by honour. It is an honour system. The applicant is expected to speak truthfully and in honour and there are at least five occasions in that application where honour is demanded to determine the health status of the individual, the covid status.
"Upon arrival, it is only then that the information would be verified. It was verified. The system worked. The person has been isolated and the police will do what they have to do."
Moonilal asked if the Travel Pass system will be upgraded?
Hinds swiped his arm toward the Opposition as he replied, "Permit me a quick metaphor. A very determined thief or burglar will get through any system, as they would know."
Asked by Speaker Bridgid Annisette-George, he withdrew the remark.
"The system for the Travel Pass is constantly under review." He said this incident and others will lead his ministry to try to make the better better and stronger to protect the population, heeding international recommendations and advice from the Ministry of Health.
Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh told the House that the number of deaths from covid19 in TT nowadays was "simply unacceptable" as he replied to an urgent question from Caroni Central MP Arnold Ram. He said the case fatality ratio, or percentage of infected people who would die, was 2.99 in TT, compared to a global average of 2.3 per cent. He said the Government had alerted TT to the fact of the delta variant, has promoted the three Ws – wash hands, watch your distance and wear masks – as precautions and mass vaccinations. They had passed legislation, had a state of emergency and enacted public health regulations.
He said the number of ICU beds had been increased to now stand at 106 in Trinidad and nine in Tobago.
Drug treatment protocols had been revised under WHO guidelines including using corticosteroids and interleukin-6 blockers
In a supplemental, Ram alleged that only two oxygen monitor machines were serving 60 patients. Deyalsingh said he had told health chiefs to ensure adequate monitors were available.
The minister said, "The feedstock for this current wave are the unvaccinated." He gave details for each regional health authority.
"At Sangre Grande (Eastern RHA) this morning (Friday) we had 50 persons in the A&E, 97 per cent unvaccinated.
"South West in the A&E – 92 per cent unvaccinated. Tobago – 90 per cent in the A&E unvaccinated. North Central – 90 per cent unvaccinated. North West A&E – 95 per cent unvaccinated."
He urged people to get their vaccines or boosters.