Trinidad and Tobago May Close Bars and Schools as Clusters of COVID-19 Emerge

The Ministry of Health held a live media conference today to provide an update on the status of coronavirus infections and spread in Trinidad and Tobago. A number of revelations were made including the reduction of the number of people allowed to gather from twenty-five persons to ten.

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The Prime Minister, Dr. Keith Rowley stated that changing this regulation would reduce exposure and give the virus fewer chances to move among people. Dr. Roshan Parashram stated that the country is continuing to repatriate nationals, and one hundred twenty-three people are in quarantine at various facilities. While Trinidad and Tobago has been hailed as one of the countries that has been able to keep community spread at a minimum, Dr. Parashram also shared that he is seeing, “an evolution of the epidemic.” 

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Dr. Avery Hinds, an epidemiologist at the Ministry of Health, discussed a family group that spawned a primary cluster of six, which in turn spawned two secondary clusters – one in a school, and one from a social gathering of friends and family. Another cluster started with three persons hanging out in a bar. The key findings in an investigation into the origins of a workplace cluster were that the employees did not follow proper hygiene protocol.

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Dr. Michelle Trotman made an impassioned plea to the public to continue to practice good hygiene, social distancing, and mask-wearing. She said, “I know that we are a culture that likes to talk and touch and feel, but for now, we can’t.”

Prime Minister Dr. Rowley said that contact tracing has shown that the top areas that are at high risk for infection are schools and bars. There are now two schools that are set to close because of COVID-19 concerns. Dr. Rowley stated that SEA exams are still to go on as planned unless there is a development in the next few days. He said the availability of bars and restaurants will be under very close scrutiny over the next few days as well as public transportation. “We are not at the point of community spread,” stated the Prime Minister. 

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The Prime minister expressed concern that Trinidad and Tobago could go the way of places in the United States that went from, “basically where we are now… and within a matter of a fortnight, they got themselves into a situation where the health system was seriously challenged.” When he asked leaders in that area where they believed they lost control and the collapse of the health system began – where patients needed acute care and ventilators – the source told him that it was a period similar to what Trinidad and Tobago is experiencing right now.

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The Prime Minister stated that the country is still working to balance the risks and rewards of reopening and that decisions would be made based on the results of investigations on a day by day basis.

Watch the full media conference below.