As the country looks back on the emergence of COVID-19, Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh said the spike in cases in September and October 2020 was extremely challenging and described it as a “cloudy” period for him and his ministry.
During a one-on-one sit down interview with Guardian Media’s Lead Editor Television Ria Rambally, Deyalsingh spoke candidly about his personal experiences managing the virus, which has lead to the deaths of 140 people locally and over 1 million people worldwide.
The minister said as word of the illness spread in late 2019, he and the ministry began to do their homework, monitoring reports and the spread of the virus.
“I as minister prepared myself, leaving the lessons from the 2009 swine flu pandemic, 2012, 13,14 Ebola epidemic. So I did a lot of research on these issues, how MERS and SARS were controlled and these were the lessons I brought to bear in preparing this country for any eventuality.”
Deyalsingh said this is why he and health officials were confident that Carnival did not contribute in any way to the spread of COVID-19 in the country. He added they did not downplay the seriousness of the coronavirus in order to carry on with the greatest show on earth.
“We never let Carnival distract us from talking to the population. Even before Carnival, we had taken certain messages out. But we knew there was no evidence to say let us not have Carnival and it turned out to be the correct decision,” Deyalsingh explained.
But he said while managing the virus locally and putting measures and policies in place, there were two difficult periods he encountered.
One he said was the “personal sacrifice” of not seeing his daughter who contracted COVID-19 while in England. He said this affected him as a parent. The minister added though his daughter, who has been on the frontline of the COVId fight in the United Kingdom, did not want to return to this country. He lamented though that he has not seen his daughter since 2019, but understands the sacrifice she has made as a healthcare worker.
The Health Minister added he was also concerned about the spike in cases between September to early October when the country went into the community spread of the virus.
However, he is pleased the nation made it out that dark time.
Deyalsingh is also heartened that citizens are now rallying around the measures in place to stem the spread of COVID-19, admitting that was not the case in the early stages.
He said despite it all he maintained his stance not to panic.
“When as a leader you panic, can’t make good decisions, so there was never any sense of panic in my own being at the Ministry of Health. There was a degree of concern. When you panic you make bad decisions,” Deyalsingh said.
The minister is now focused on administering the vaccines, which are due to begin arriving in this country at the end of this month into early April.