AN 11-year-old pupil of the Maraval Roman Catholic School, who tested positive for Covid-19, has potentially exposed around 300 people to the virus.
This is according to Chief Medical Officer Dr Roshan Parasram, who yesterday said contact tracing efforts are ongoing to identify people who may have come into contact with the pupil.
The child, confirmed as case 142, had been attending classes since schools were reopened on June 20 for pupils preparing for the Secondary Entrance Assessment (SEA) exam.
Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh said despite being visibly ill, the child’s parents chose to send him to school instead of keeping him at home, as the ministry has consistently advised.
Deyalsingh and Parasram were speaking during yesterday’s virtual news conference.
T&T’s Covid-19 count now stands at 147, after five primary contacts of the pupil tested positive yesterday.
Parasram said all five new cases, including three children, are members of the pupil’s household.
A further 90 pupils and teachers at the school are being considered primary contacts and have been ordered to quarantine at their homes.
The Police Service has been engaged to ensure they comply with the home quarantine requirements.
Additionally, the ministry expects secondary contacts to number in excess of 200.
“The now-positive students, teachers, etc, are considered primary contacts, and all of these primary contacts in addition to their contacts like parents and siblings will now be placed into home quarantine for period of 14 days.
“This will be followed up with monitoring and evaluation for signs and symptoms,” Parasram said.
He noted that if the warning to stay at home if you are ill was heeded in this case, the outcome would have been different.
“If the child had stayed at home when he was ill, we would have lost already 300 possible contacts and decreased the risk of community spread,” the CMO said.
He pleaded again for people to stay at home if they are ill to avoid passing the virus on to others.
The pupil’s case has caused a ripple effect that has resulted in the closure of the Maraval and Paramin Roman Catholic churches and may even affect the writing of the SEA exam at the school.
Fr Ron Mendes, of the Our Lady of Lourdes RC Church in Maraval, said a decision was taken to close the two churches until August 1.
Masses will instead be livestreamed via Facebook.
In a statement, Mendes said the two churches will be fumigated and professionally sanitised with assistance from the Ministry of Health.
The Maraval RC School is also being similarly sanitised, he said.
All pupils and teachers who have been placed in home quarantine are to be tested for the virus. Mendes said when the results are received, the Catholic Board will know how to proceed.
The board yesterday confirmed in a letter to parents that a Standard Five pupil at the school had tested positive for Covid-19.
Chief executive officer of the board Sharon Mangroo said the pupil and his family are now being treated at the Caura Hospital.
She added the pupils had no access to the Maraval RC Church, which is on the same compound as the school, over the past week.
Nevertheless the church has been closed out of an abundance of caution.
Mangroo further urged the public to remain vigilant regarding the onset of any flu-like symptoms and to contact the Covid-19 hotline at 877-WELL for advice.
TTUTA: Keep children home
President of the Trinidad and Tobago Unified Teachers Association (TTUTA) Antonia De Freitas expressed concern over the developments.
De Freitas pleaded with parents to keep their ill children at home.
Asked whether she felt schools were reopened too soon, given this incident occurring just three days into the resumption of classes for SEA pupils, De Freitas said TTUTA’s position was strongly articulated in the weeks prior to the reopening.
TTUTA had, on several occasions, opposed the reopening of schools before September ,and had been advocating for an October date for the SEA as well as CSEC and CAPE exams.
“We made our position quite clear earlier on which was an unpopular one... there was a lot of discontent with that,” she noted.
However, De Freitas said the association can only try its best to follow the protocols to protect pupils and staff as preparations for the exams continue.
“Going forward, we need to find ways as to how we will continue with the education system over the next few weeks,” she said.
“TTUTA is also suggesting that we have competent and qualified personnel placed in the schools to do the thermal scanning and to ascertain if anybody is at risk and may be in need of medical care.”
The pupil’s case comes just days after public concern was heightened with the discovery that a Covid-positive person had been moving about and mingling freely in public despite exhibiting symptoms of the virus for a week.
This resulted in the temporary closure of businesses and banks that the person was confirmed to have visited.
Additionally, Parasram said the number of people visiting health centres with viral illnesses has increased in the last two days.
With the upsurge in Covid-19 cases, the Government has now taken the decision to halt any further reopening of the economy, and certain restrictions that had been recently lifted have also been re-implemented.
The reopening of the entertainment industry has now been put on hold.
This means events like party boats, nightclubs, concerts, etc, will not be allowed to resume.
“One of the things we were starting to look at this weekend was starting to reopen the entertainment industry. We heard your cries and we were on the verge of doing that,” Deyalsingh said.
“But events from Wednesday to today have now put that on the back burner. I really feel for those in the entertainment industry but the recent cases have necessitated a review of those plans.”
Deyalsingh, however, said the Government is not contemplating moving back into a “lockdown” at this time.
Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley also said on Friday night that the entertainment industry would have to wait a little longer to return to normal operations.
Rowley was speaking during his “Friday Night Lime” virtual event which was aired on his Facebook page. (See Page 5)
“We were rolling back things very carefully, and the next area would have been entertainment,” he said. “We have to wait a little while, but we’re anxious to roll it back.”
Rowley noted entertainment is a significant contributor to the economy, but said the upsurge in cases had to be considered. “We want to get you back to work. But as we want to do that, we’re controlled by the decision-making of the environment—whether the virus would flourish or would be suppressed.”
In addition to the entertainment industry reopening being halted, the Government has taken the decision to bar visitors from homes for the elderly.
The ministry had recently announced that visiting schedules at these homes could resume. However, with the spike in cases over the past few days, Deyalsingh said steps must be taken to protect the elderly.
“No visitors are allowed,” he said. “This is to protect the most vulnerable group.”
At public hospitals, only one visitor per patient is to be allowed, and hospitals will continue to have only one hour-long visiting period per day.
Deyalsingh urged the public to adhere to the public health regulations, including the wearing of masks.
“The two major breaches in public health measures that led to this new case load is wearing masks, so from today we are not making masks mandatory by law, but strongly recommend that masks be worn in public,” he said.
He urged businesses to continue to keep their “no mask, no service” policy in place.
There was some good news, however, as Parasram disclosed yesterday that the primary contacts of cases 139 and 141 have all tested negative for the virus.
Parasram said there was “little to no risk” that several contacts of case 139, who travelled to Tobago, transmitted the virus to others on the inter-island ferry.