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There was an upsurge in the number of positive COVID-19 cases in County Caroni in February and March. Up to yesterday, 60 cases had been confirmed throughout the district.

County Medical Officer of Health, Caroni, Dr Jeanine St Bernard said the positive case load had doubled to 52 within the first 16 days of March and had left medical authorities with more than 900 primary, secondary and tertiary contacts to follow up.

“Given the severity of the situation in Caroni as I observed the numbers continuing to rise, we needed to implement some measures to try to contain the spread,” she saud

Last week National Security Minister Stuart Young confirmed that 87 police officers throughout the Central Division had been quarantined as a precautionary measure. Of this number, three tested positive for the coronavirus. An additional 41 members of staff attached to police stations in the division have also been quarantined.

According to St Bernard, this led to 154 secondary contacts and 51 tertiary contacts being quarantined. She said all primary contacts are being swabbed regardless of whether they were symptomatic or asymptomatic.

St Bernard said while the move might seem severe and drastic, it was necessary as the numbers are increasing rapidly.

Citing one instance where an infected person attended church outside of County Caroni and generated 23 primary contacts, 46 secondary contacts and 41 tertiary contacts leading to 15 more persons becoming infected, she said similar situations were occurring as people are bar hopping.

She described the behaviour by some who gather on the streets and outside bars as they consume their alcohol as a “disturbing trend.” St Bernard said she recently met with members of the Barkeepers & Operators Association of T&T (BOATT) on the situation.

While bar owners/operators are adhering to health regulations within their establishments, she said they had raised concerns that their jurisdiction did not extend to the pavements and streets which had now become the new liming spots. Strongly discouraging such activities, St Bernard warned that it had the potential to affect business continuity in County Caroni and could also negatively affect school operations, especially for those who will be writing the CSEC and CAPE exams due to start in June.

So far, one student in County Caroni has been quarantined.

Secondary schools students in Forms Four to Six were allowed to return to the physical classroom on February 8 as part of the hybrid online system, while Standard Five students at the primary level are expected to return when the new school term starts on April 12.

Epidemiologist Dr Avery Hinds said the seven-day rolling average had now increased from three to eight.

The clinical update from the Ministry of Health yesterday showed that there are 18 new cases of COVID-19 based on samples taken between March 17 and 19.

There are currently nine patients being treated at hospital and one in a step down facility, while 379 people are in state quarantine facilities and 118 are in home self isolation.

The total number of active positive cases in T&T is 146.