Minister of Health Terrence Deyalsingh speaking in the House of Representatives yesterday.

Anyone living in or visiting China who slips through T&T’s 14-day travel restriction and enters the country may be subject to quarantine. Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh confirmed this in a statement to Parliament yesterday.

“It must be emphasised and the assurance is given that contrary to media reports, there are no suspected or confirmed cases of coronavirus in the country,” he said.

Yesterday, almost 10,000 coronavirus cases were confirmed in China with 213 deaths and 171 people who have recovered. The virus has been confirmed in 20 countries with the most outside of China occurring in Thailand—nine—while 13 of the 20 affected states have a handful of cases. The US reported six cases and the UK, two.

On Thursday, Government announced a travel restriction of 14 days for people of any nationality coming to T&T from China. They will have to wait 14 days after they’ve left China, to enter T&T.

Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi told Guardian Media the ban took effect yesterday since he had issued the necessary legal notices and they were sent to the President yesterday for proclamation. The notices classify coronavirus as a dangerous infectious disease.

Deyalsingh told Parliament Government’s measures against the virus are in keeping with World Health Organisation (WHO) standards and guidelines and consistent with the basic need to protect T&T’s health against all risk.

He also reaffirmed that the travel ban will take effect despite the WHO’s recommendations against it.

“WHO makes recommendations. Compliance is voluntary,” he said in a WhatsApp message to Guardian Media.

He added, “In the event that a person presents at a port of entry in Trinidad and Tobago, they may be subject to quarantine measures. In this regard, CARPHA, who has responsibility for testing in the region, has advised that it will have the capacity to begin testing by next Monday.

“We’ve already instituted precautionary measures and are in a state of readiness in the event we have to treat with the virus in terms of isolation centres, quarantine facilities, health personnel, personal protective equipment, pharmaceuticals and other related resources to treat with it.”

Deyalsingh said Government is very mindful of the population’s concerns about the health threat if the coronavirus is transmitted into T&T.

“Concerns are legitimate since this virus is considered highly virulent in that it’s fast-spreading, infectious and aggressive. Government is fully aware of the risk factors to Trinidad and Tobago and is in control of the situation and has implemented measures and resources to manage this risk. Our immediate focus is to interrupt transmission of the virus to Trinidad and Tobago.”

The minister said as of yesterday thermal screening of passengers from the United States, Canada, Panama and the United Kingdom involved 292 flights and 24,229 passengers and crew screened at Piarco and in Tobago.

“No person was found to be febrile (having fever),” he said.

Coronaviruses are a large family of respiratory viruses that can cause diseases ranging from the common cold to Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). He added that T&T had experience in treating with SARS during a 2004 /2006 outbreak.

Yesterday the United States announced a travel ban would be implemented after the US Department of State upgraded its travel advisory from Level 3 (Reconsider Travel to China) to its highest level; 4 (Do not travel) as fatalities crossed 200.

The advisory cited the WHO’s labelling of the virus as a public health emergency and advised: “those currently in China should consider departing using commercial means.”

The Department of State also requested that all “non-essential US government personnel defer travel to China in light of the novel coronavirus.” Russia, Mongolia and North Korea have also closed its borders to travellers from China in a bid to stop the spread of the virus.

Yesterday both American Airlines and Delta announced they would be suspending flights to and from the Chinese mainland. American Airlines said it will suspend flights beginning Friday while Delta Air Lines said it would halt flights from February 6 through April 30. United also indicated its intention to stop flights to the region soon.

The Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) has also adopted a similar restriction to T&T’s.

“CLIA Members have suspended crew movements from mainland China and will deny boarding to any individual, whether guest or crew, who has travelled from or through mainland China within the previous 14 days,” its release read.

Meanwhile, the T&T Medical Association, in a release yesterday said it is important “that each person tries his best to prevent acquiring and spreading any viral illness. Routine preventative precautions such as; handwashing, covering your mouth when you cough or sneeze are effective at helping to prevent the spread of most viral illnesses, including 2019-nCoV infection.”

With the upcoming rise in tourism from Carnival celebrations, the association urged citizens to seek immediate medical attention if they begin to experience any of the symptoms of the virus.