HEALTH authorities would not speculate yesterday as to the origins of five new Covid-19 infections which caused the closure of two primary schools and sent dozens of pupils and adults into quarantine.
Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh, while not defining the infections a second wave, said this week’s occurrence was no surprise.
Covid-19 as well as other viral illnesses were expected to increase with Government’s easing of pandemic restrictions, Deyalsingh said during the Health Ministry’s virtual media conference.
The latest case was confirmed by health officials yesterday as a 43-year-old delivery driver whose positive result was picked up at the Arima Health Centre.
The man was said to have worked and socialised for six days while ill, before seeking medical attention.
One of the man’s primary contacts was a pupil of the Tacarigua Presbyterian School, which was closed yesterday and a 14-day quarantine placed on some of its Secondary Entrance Assessment (SEA) pupils.
Asked to address public concern as to where the current cases may have originated, given nearly two months of restrictions on non-essential movement and the shutting of the country’s borders in late March, Deyalsingh reminded that the virus would have been “with us” all along.
Technical director, epidemiology division at the Ministry of Health, Dr Avery Hinds noted ongoing epidemiological investigations and said a definitive answer would be premature at this time.
There are four such investigations ongoing.
“We are in the process of investigating as we speak. We do not have a clear or concrete answer to where the cases would have come from,” Hinds said. “We are still looking at where the cases are and we trace backwards to identify the source, while we also trace outwards to reduce spread.
“We have subsequently seen in the last few days at least four persons who have turned up in the population with Covid-19. One of those, in tracing their contacts and testing them, led to a family cluster of an additional five persons. We have initiated again the contact tracing activities around whom the positive cases would have been in contact.”
T&T has now recorded 148 positive Covid-19 cases, 11 of which are active with patients currently at hospital.
Deyalsingh urged the population to focus on preventing Covid spread, pleading again yesterday for the wearing of masks and other protocols to be observed.
He said the country was better able to deal with the current infection rate, having had months to prepare and being now equipped with a “gene expert” machine that offers faster, accurate results.
More information is needed before the cases being seen could be called a “second wave”, Deyalsingh said.
“As to whether we are in a second wave, we have to be careful how we describe things as waves or peaks. We need to get more information from the contact tracing to determine whether this is a second wave...if it is a peak,” the Minister said.
The Minister asked citizens to stay at home if they are ill, even where symptoms are very mild.
Dr Naresh Nandram, principal medical officer in epidemiology, said the country’s latest positive patient was in “close proximity to family members, colleagues and customers”.
Eight people from the patient’s household — three men, three women and two children — have been swabbed and quarantined.
Nandram said the principal of Tacarigua Presbyterian has been advised to close the school and that contact tracing exercises have begun.
This will include primary and secondary contacts as the patient interacted with a number of co-workers as well as workers from other companies.
The premises of all companies concerned will be sanitised and many of the primary and secondary contacts have been swabbed and tested, he said.
As of last Tuesday, business, schools and homes have been impacted by the emergence of cases of Covid-19 where the patients have no recent travel history and no clear contact with people who have travelled.
As with an epidemiological map shown early in T&T’s Covid-19 fight, a graphic shared by the Ministry of Health has again shown prevalence of the virus along the East-West corridor.
Deyalsingh said the Couva Hospital has been reactivated, with one patient currently being treated in the High Dependency Unit.
Nandram said serological testing is to be introduced, to supplement polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing.
People are also encouraged to be honest when answering questions regarding Covid-19 and Hinds noted that where public health is concerned, it is an offence to withhold information. Additional testing not only provides for more specific patient information, but will also help in understanding the virus and how it spreads.
“(This) enables us to do two things. One, identify persons that may have been in contact with this new person and to link epidemiologically, going back to trace the source of the case in front of us,” Nandram said.