Terrence Deyalsingh

(flashback)PSYCHOLOGICAL COUNSELLING AVAILABLE: Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh

Sixty-three people have been tested for COVID-19 through the Ministry of Health’s community surveillance testing initiative to date and all have returned negative.

Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh gave this update during yesterday’s virtual news briefing.

The ministry began the voluntary surveillance testing on April 14 at health centres across the country, which Chief Medical Officer Dr Roshan Parasram had said would give an idea of the areas where COVID-19 was present. The initiative would also determine what other viruses may be co-circulating among the population.

Deyalsingh said yesterday with none of the 63 surveillance testing subjects testing positive, the ministry intends to ramp up testing in the coming days.

“We have started to ramp up our testing outside of known cases, primary contacts and secondary contacts. Now we have gone to another layer... surveillance testing.

“When we get in more kits, and we are starting that from Monday, we then ramp up again. It’s a gradual process based on protocols and our own country’s assessment of where we are.”

Deyalsingh, however, said the data is not enough to determine if there is community spread of the virus in T&T.

“We are classified in the WHO category as sporadic spread,” he said.

“Whether we are witnessing community spread, that will only be determined by the science and the information coming out of contact tracing. It is too early to say where we are with that. As soon as we have that data, that will determine whether we have community spread.”

Passing grade

Deyalsingh also sought to clarify a previous statement on the decanting of patients at St Ann’s Psychiatric Hospital.

Some 250 patients have been discharged from the hospital, but Deyalsingh said this was always part of government’s mental health decentralisation plans and not as a result of COVID-19.

“We would have said that the population in St Ann’s was decreased from about 1,000 to about 750, and we said clearly that was done as part of our mental health decentralisation policy.

“That comment is being misinterpreted to mean we sent 250 people home because of COVID. That is not correct.

“This Government signed off on a decentralising policy since last year and even before that the process of decanting low-risk persons from St Ann’s began. It was a gradual process that may have accelerated a little bit this year because of COVID.”

Deyalsingh said T&T thus far should receive an overall “passing grade” for its COVID-19 response, but he admitted the country had “failed” in some areas.

“We would have failed in one or two subjects, like ­COVID parties,” he said. “We would have failed, but it is not too late to wake up and do the right thing. We have time to take some extra lessons so we get a good report card.”

He added that CMO ­Parasram is to advise the Government on how T&T has handled the pandemic to date, and he hoped the country would get a “B-plus”.

Meanwhile, the patient who tested positive for COVID-19 at the Princess Elizabeth Centre in Port of Spain has been sent to the Couva hospital.

The centre also sent home 15 differently-abled children and about 50 staff since the State issued instructions that schools should be closed to combat the coronavirus.

A part of the centre was transformed into a holding bay to treat about two to three patients and they were awaiting COVID-19 test results.

For over 50 years, the Princess Elizabeth Centre has served as a home for physically handicapped children. Asked for an update, a source at the centre said yesterday: “After the lockdown, they asked us for the use of a portion of the place.

“It was functioning as a sort of holding bay, and a ward. It did not have a large number of people. It only had about two or three patients. They were waiting for test results. The person who tested positive was sent to Couva.”

—with reporting

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