Soldiers stand guard outside the step-down facility set up for recovering COVID-19 patients at Brooklyn Settlement, Sangre Grande, on Friday night. The facility was completed on Friday and 30-odd patients were moved there on Saturday.

Almost nine and a half hours after Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh promised to transfer 30 recovering COVID-19 patients to a convalescent facility in Brooklyn Settlement, Sangre Grande, the group was taken there under the cover of darkness.

Deyalsingh announced the move during Saturday’s media briefing updating the country on the COVID-19 crisis affecting the country.

Brooklyn Settlement residents have been protesting the ministry’s decision to locate the step-down facility in their community.

But reiterating that step-down facilities were needed so that recovering patients could convalesce in a quiet and isolated location before they are discharged into the care of their loved ones, Deyalsingh again appealed to citizens to exercise compassion, patience and tolerance on this issue durng Saturday’s press conference.

Despite this appeal, Brooklyn Settlement residents on Saturday night said they were scared about what the future holds as they fear their lives are now in danger with the arrival of the patients.

Some of the residents reported being awakened around 11.34 pm as a vehicular convoy arrived at Bridge Road. Escorted by a large number of T&T Defence Force and T&T Police Service officers, the contingent was said to have been driven straight onto the fenced compound of the step-down facility as most of the surrounding community slept.

A resident, who happened to be in his gallery when the contingent arrived, told Guardian Media, “The patients were brought in two large PTSC buses and one Civilian Conservation Corp bus.”

Another added that although the facility was bright and busy around midnight, it appeared as if the convoy was attempting to maintain a certain level of quiet, as the lights were turned off on the vehicles which had been parked along Bridge Road.

When Guardian Media contacted an elderly woman who lives close to the facility, she claimed to be despondent after learning of the patients’ arrival in the area.

She questioned, “Why they doing this in the dead of night? What they hiding? Why they didn’t bring them here in the daylight and let everyone know what happening up here?”

On Thursday, copies of a petition bearing the signatures of 101 residents were delivered to the Eastern Regional Health Authority, Office of the President and the United Nations office in Port-of-Spain.

In the six-page document, the residents expressed their displeasure that recovering COVID-19 patients would be taken into the close-knit community, since more than 70 per cent of them are over 70 and suffering with one or more co-morbid condition such as diabetes and hypertension.

However, on Friday final preparations on the facility, which previously housed a home for the elderly named Aging at Home, were completed. Deyalsingh then announced the facility would have its first recovering patients on Saturday.