The deadly coronavirus will hit Trinidad and Tobago, but it is not Armageddon.
So said Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh yesterday, adding that Trinidad and Tobago is getting ready to deal with any outbreak.
“If... not if, when we have a case of COVID-19 I’m stating it again, I would be the first person to alert the public that we have a case, there is nothing to hide, we have been transparent from day one,” said Deyalsingh.
The minister was speaking on TV6 Morning Edition and later in the day he reiterated to the Express that preparatory works are in gear.
Deyalsingh and Trade Minister Paula Gopee-Scoon travelled to Barbados on Sunday where Caricom chair Mia Mottley held a special meeting to discuss the virus with cruise liners and regional representatives.
Deyalsingh noted that Mottley has said the region is in “crisis management” and all hands are needed on deck.
The minister noted that there are 87,137 cases so far and over 3,000 deaths worldwide from the coronavirus.
“Trinidad and Tobago and the English-speaking Caribbean area is going to be affected sooner rather than later,” he said.
The question, he said, is whether we are prepared.
“We have to move from being prepared to being ready,” he said as he pointed out that the list of required measures to be put in place are being ticked off: from isolation centres, quarantine units, training for front-line workers, pharmaceuticals, protective wear and gear.
Deyalsingh said Trinidad and Tobago is in preparedness mode, adding, “You hope for the best, but plan for the worst.”
The minister also provided an example to show that a small percentage of the population is really at high risk from the coronavirus— that is the elderly and more so those who suffer from non-communicable diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular issues and respiratory ailments. He said if 100 people in T&T have coronavirus — 81 per cent would have mild symptoms not requiring hospital care, 15 per cent may require treatment but only five per cent would need to be admitted to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU).
“I am seeing pundits out there saying that the health system is going to be overwhelmed. We are not going to be overwhelmed, it is not going to be Armageddon,” he said.
Just a matter of time
Deyalsingh reiterated that the 14-day travel restrictions remain in place for person coming from China, Singapore, Iran, South Korea, Japan and Italy. He said citizens of Trinidad and Tobago who visited these countries and are returning home will have to be self-quarantined.
The minister also noted that wearing a mask is of no use and can actually be dangerous because it causes a person to touch their face frequently if it does not fit well.
Deyalsingh advised persons to get the their flu shots as he pointed out that it gives your immune system a better fighting chance against the COVID-19 if a person contracts both the flu and the coronavirus.
Also speaking on the Morning Edition, Dr Erica Wheeler, PAHO/WHO representative Trinidad and Tobago and the Netherlands Antilles, said she believes the wider Caribbean will be affected given that coronavirus cases have been reported in the Dominican Republic, St Martin and St Barts.
“It is a matter of time before it arrives in other countries of the Caribbean,” she said as she stressed the need to be prepared and not panic. “It is not as if everyone who gets COVID-19 will die...there is no evidence to show that it is terminal for everyone who gets it,” she said.
She added that this country is fortunate that testing and confirmation of any cases will be done right here at The Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA).