Terrance Deyalsingh

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On the heels of a coronavirus scare in Jamaica on Tuesday, Minister of Health Terrence Deyalsingh will go to Cabinet today for advice on how T&T should treat with passengers on incoming flights. He confirmed the move while speaking on the Morning Brew yesterday.

“How do we deal now with incoming air traffic? There are various options. I took the decision on Sunday night that this now needs Cabinet intervention and Cabinet would be receiving my information tomorrow (today) and hopefully some sort of decision would be taken tomorrow (today) as far as travel is concerned”.

There is global concern over the mysterious coronavirus which has now spread to 15 other countries after first being recorded in the Wuhan province of China.

Deyalsingh declined further details on the kind of travel restrictions that may be under consideration, because he didn’t want to “preempt Cabinet.” He said he would place his trust in the Cabinet to advise him how to move forward.

The virus has been detected as near to T&T as the United States while Jamaica had a scare earlier this week following which their Ministry of Health called a press conference to dismiss the rumours. On Tuesday reports circulated that a man who recently travelled to China was admitted to the University Hospital of the West Indies showing symptoms of the virus. However, Medical Chief of Staff at the University Hospital at Mona, Dr Carl Bruce indicated after further examination the patient’s symptoms did not meet the criteria for the virus.

The outbreak of the virus prompted the US State Department to urge travellers earlier this week to “reconsider travel to China.” However, while there are no official travel advisories from local government agencies, Minister Deyalsingh yesterday gave his own advisory to T&T nationals, echoing that of the US.

“I am urging everyone that is thinking of going to China for non-essential travel to please not go. It is not in your best interest to go to China at this point in time. That is a travel advisory I can give out,” he said.

Accompanying the Minister on the programme was County Medical Officer of Health, Dr Osafo Fraser, who said all the country’s screening systems are in place at ports of entry.

“Since we started scanning last week Tuesday, we’ve scanned over 16,000 passengers and over 200 flights. We’re doing that around the clock,” he said.

This virus is only the latest public health threat to T&T, albeit a very low threat as previously stated by the Minister of Health. Within the past 10 years, there have been similar threats such as a flu pandemic, Chikungunya, Ebola, Influenza, and Zika. But what the country did not have is a warning system dedicated to public health threats which could prioritise them so citizens could understand where concern should be placed. This is why Deyalsingh said he would also be carrying a note to Cabinet today to establish such a system.

“You know like how we have a warning system for hurricanes or flooding,” he explained.