PM of Trinidad announces new COVID restrictions

May 03, 2021
Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad (CMC) — The Trinidad and Tobago government on Monday announced further restrictions to deal with the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) as health authorities warn that the health system could collapse within a 10-day period.

Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley told a news conference that in addition to the various measures outlined last Thursday that led to a partial shutdown of the country until May 23, his administration has now decided with effect from midnight that all food service will be discontinued and that includes “what you call street food selling”.

“I am sure there will be inconvenience there, but the coronary to that I am sure most people, if not all in this pandemic, in this crisis that is brewing that you could feed yourself at home,” Rowley said, noting that when he announced the closure of restaurants and bars last week “I did not anticipate the level of replacement for the convenience of those who have been restricted by that convenience resulting in the very thing we are trying to discourage…”

He said also that all retail trade would be discontinued “for a specific period time, the details of which will come …by morning”.

“That is non-essential retail, we will still keep the essentials going, pharmacies, groceries, hardwares and so on,” he said, adding that the list would be similar to the one used in April “and of course given the burning desire to be there with everybody else we are forced now to restrict our opening hours again from 6:00 am to 8:00 pm (local time)".

“We are saying to the population for the days ahead…if you don’t have to come out as an essential worker, or don’t have to come out for essential business stay at home, stay away from people,” Rowley said.

“I don’t expect to win any popularity contest,” Rowley said, adding that the measures are necessary to curb the virus “that will bring pain and suffering".

“The outcome that we are after is an outcome that we must obtain, which is allowing each person a good chance of surviving the onslaught of the virus,” Rowley said, adding, “the medicine is bitter (but) if you don’t take it” the outcome could be death.

Epidemiologist Dr Avery Hinds warned that if Trinidad and Tobago continues to record new COVID-19 positive cases at the current rate, the country can see upwards of 10,000 active cases by May 22.

Hinds told reporters that based on the number of people tested for the virus; there has been a 35 per cent positivity rate and that based on current numbers, Trinidad and Tobago can see its parallel health care system reach maximum capacity in as little as seven days and as long as 10 days.

Hinds spoke of an “alarming rate of cases” and that young people were also dying as a result of contracting the virus.

The parallel health system has a maximum of 542 beds in seven hospitals across the country.

On average, 14 of every 100 COVID-positive patients currently require hospitalisation and according to Acting Principal Medical Officer at the Ministry of Health, Dr Maryam Abdool-Richards, the number of people discharged is approximately six out of every 100.

She too warned of a collapse of the system “within seven to 10 days”

According to the latest figures released by the Ministry of Health, there have been 241 new cases of the virus bringing the total active cases to 2,536. It said since the first case was diagnosed here in Mach last year, there have been 11, 513 positive cases. There have been 174 deaths to date, with 235 people in state sanctioned quarantine facilities.

Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh told reporters that if the parallel health care system becomes overwhelmed, COVID-19 positive patients will not be housed in the traditional hospital system and urged citizens to adhere to the public health regulations.

He said whilst beds can be added to the parallel health care system, doctors and nurses are not readily available to treat patients.

He warned that no hospital can be run at 100 per cent capacity for any length of time and that the doctors and nurses operating in the parallel health care system are also being used for the ministry’s vaccination drive.

During the news conference, Prime Minister Rowley said that while the government would not be making available funds to persons who would be affected by the new restrictions, the government would be continuing spending millions of dollars (One TT dollar=US$0.16 cents) in guaranteeing the social support system, including taking care of an estimated 107,000 senior citizens.

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