Eight more people have tested positive for Covid-19, five of whom are primary contacts of recently positive Covid-19 patients.
The other three are Trinidad and Tobago nationals who recently returned from Canada, the Ministry of Health reported yesterday afternoon.
The total number of positive Covid-19 cases in Trinidad and Tobago now stands at 164.
In its Covid-19 update yesterday morning, the Ministry noted that one additional Covid-19 case was recorded, with two patients discharged.
That positive case, the Ministry said, was a primary contact of a recently positive Covid-19 patient.
By 6 p.m., the number of positive cases climbed to eight— three imported cases and five primary contacts of Covid-19 patients.
“All established protocols have been implemented,” the Ministry said.
There are now 26 positive Covid-19 patients in hospital.
As at 6 p.m., 7,716 samples were submitted to the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) and UWI site for testing for Covid-19.
So far, 130 patients have been discharged from hospital.
At Wednesday’s Covid-19 virtual media conference, chief medical officer Dr Roshan Parasram disclosed that some of the recent positive Covid-19 cases may have contracted the virus from individuals who recently crossed T&T’s borders illegally.
“This person would have been positive prior to entering the country. We will have to find out where that person may be, test, treat and ring-fence any other contact,” Parasram said.
He also confirmed that T&T had entered the second phase of Covid-19, given the gap between case 116 on April 20 and the locally spread case on July 20.
Since July 20, T&T has recorded more than 20 cases of Covid-19.
Three schools— Maraval Roman Catholic, Tacarigua Presbyterian and St Augustine South Government Primary— had to be shut in the past week due to Covid-19 exposure.
On Monday, the Ministry of Health announced that one Covid-19 patient, a 43-year-old delivery driver from Arima, was ill for six days and was out and about at work before checking himself into hospital to be tested for the virus.
It is still unknown how many people he came into contact with before being tested.
The spike in Covid-19 cases in the last week has prompted calls for both the August 10 general election and the August 20 Secondary Entrance Assessment (SEA) examination to be postponed.
Illegal immigrant link
On Wednesday, Chief Immigration Officer Charmaine Gandhi-Andrews told a virtual Caricom Implementation Agency for Crime and Security (IMPACS) conference that illegal immigrants from Venezuela could be linked to new Covid-19 cases in T&T.
She said the country had closed its borders on March 18 to all foreign nationals and five days later “the borders were closed to all persons, including citizens and residents who now had to shelter in place in a foreign country”.
“Foreign nationals who were in Trinidad and Tobago as visitors had no means of returning to their home of abode and Government granted extensions to their stay so that those persons could maintain legal status until their departure,” with only cargo vessels being allowed to enter and leave and their crew remaining on board, she was reported as saying in a CMC story.
She said a lockdown of the entire country began in March and within two months T&T was able to flatten the curve.
“The country reopened on a phased basis and life returned to a new normal with new habits. The Government began a mild return of citizens and residents with mandatory State quarantine for 14 days,” she said.
Increased human smuggling
She said illegal entry slowed during the period of the lockdown “as movement within the country was restricted and enforced by the police and the closure of businesses meant that there was no employment available”.
“However, with the relaxing of the lockdown and the reopening of the businesses there has been a marked increase in human smuggling between Trinidad and Venezuela. The borders are still closed, yet non-nationals have been trying to enter the country and some have been able to escape the increased maritime controls implemented by the Coast Guard and the land patrols by the police and the (Trinidad and Tobago) Defence Force,” she said.
Gandhi-Andrews said as T&T are islands with porous borders illegal entry can only happen by sea.
“Our laws prohibit illegal entry and it is an offence under the Immigration Act, so too is inducing, aiding and abetting or attempting to induce, aid or abet any person to violate a provision of the law,” she added. Gandhi-Andrews said illegal migration is one of the biggest threats to any measures implemented to control the spread of the virus and within the last two weeks “there has been a sudden spike in the cases of coronavirus, requiring epidemiological investigation”.
“Coincidentally that is happening with increasing illegal entry from Venezuela leading to widespread speculation by the public that illegal migrants have brought the virus with them.
“One needs only to read the comments on social media to understand the public concern,” she said, adding that with media reports of the virus spreading rapidly in Latin America, “there is a high probability that illegal immigrants may come into the country undetected with the virus”.