Tinidad and Tobago is now experiencing clusters of the Covid 19 coronavirus, and some of the recent victims were infected at bars and schools.
As a result, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley announced this afternoon that gatherings would be restricted to ten, and public servants would be asked to report to work on rotation or by alphabetical order, which would reduce the number of public servants out on a daily basis by 50 per cent.
The restrictions would not affect the August 10 election day where social distancing spacing protocols would be enforced.
People would be expected to sanitise before going into the polling station, sanitise before going into the polling booth, and have sanitised stamps to use when actually voting.
Speaking at a media briefing in Port of Spain, Rowley: “We are encouraging people to wear a mask…once you are going out or interacting with people in close quarters”.
He said there were 500,000 masks in the State system, since it was proven to help reduce spread.
He said that with four schools now having to close (the latest today) the Secondary Entrance Assessment (SEA) was now “on watch” and a decision would be made in the coming days as to whether it would be written, based on how many cases.
He said if there was no SEA exam, there would be no basis to reopen schools on September 1 for the entrance of a new batch of pupils.
He said SEA classes at schools would continue in the interim, but action would be taken if the risk was considered too great.
Rowley said he wanted police to act against political parties if campaigns involved more than ten people.
He appealed to political leaders to enforce the ten-person rule, and that the people involved in walkabouts needed to be reduced.
He said he didn’t expect the parties to have motorcades.
And also under watch would be bars and restaurants which would see restrictions if cases continued to be linked to those establishments.
Rowley said he was surprised that police had not arrested and dragged before the court people who were openly breaching the regulations related to bars.
He said that the police needed to act if people were having parties outside of bars, closing doors and hosting customers, or restaurants having more people than is allowed in the establishments.
“I have seen people, some of them supposed to be responsible people, telling people there is no Covid here….That is unhelpful”.
He said the Caribbean Premier League (CPL) cricket competition would continue, but any player who breached the requirements of the protocols being arranged would be penalised.
He said no action would be taken regarding the number of people in public transport, but it would be closely examined.
He also said that it appeared that the people of south Trinidad were not taking the warnings seriously.
The Prime Minister, who was in San Fernando this morning, and had been at multiple sod-turning ceremonies over the past week, said “I am sad to report that the population in south Trinidad is not taking this matter seriously, and that it is someone else problems and it is someone else’s politics.
The reduction of gatherings to ten people would not affect family gatherings, funerals or church services, but social distancing would be required.
The new regulations would be enforced by 6a.m. Sunday.
Rowley warned however “If we continue to get the numbers (of cases) going forward, we will have to take more drastic action.
He said the decision were not being made in the context of elections, and next week if there were further Covid case increases, and further action as required “we will take it”.
Cases 139 to 169
As of this afternoon, the country had recorded 169 cases.
Of these, 28 were being treated at the Caura Hospital. One patient was at the Couva Hospital, having improved enough to be moved out of the High Dependency Unit.
There were 123 people at various quarantine sites.
Technical Director, Epidemiology Division at the Ministry of Health, Dr Avery Hinds said of particular interest were the cases 139 to 169.
People in this group spread the infection to clusters of friends and family.
Three people contracted the virus at a bar, the source of which was unknown.
And there was a case where the virus was spread at a workplace that did not adhere to the mask wearing and sanitisation protocol.
The hidden sources of the infection were the most worrying, said Chief Medical Officer Dr Roshan Parasram, since the source could be moving about spreading the virus indetected.
Thoracic Medical Director of the Caura Hospital Dr Michelle Trotman said she wanted to give the public the artillery to fight the virus, and it remained the same - sanitise, social distance and wear masks.
Rowley said that the country was abuzz with talk of “community spread” and there was anxiety over it. He said it was a good this since it meant that people were aware, and taking note that it could happen.
He said the action being taken was required reduce the exposure to the population by limiting the movement of people.