One of the two people who was recently diagnosed with the Delta variant of COVID-19 after travelling into T&T, possibly spent five days in public circulation before showing symptoms and testing positive with the virus.
This was confirmed by Chief Medical Officer Dr Roshan Parasram at yesterday’s COVID-19 media conference.
Having arrived in the country fully vaccinated and with a negative PCR test 72 hours before travelling, Parasram said the passenger was allowed to go home and only got tested when he developed symptoms five days later. The passenger eventually went to a health centre to get tested.
Parasram said he and his family were then quarantined pending the results. He said at least three close family members were also placed in quarantine and that they will all be discharged when two negative tests are received.
The ministry has not shed any light on whether the traveller spent time in public places and to what extent he could have triggered community spread of the Delta variant.
It is also unclear whether that patient—having tested negative before travelling—came into the country with the Delta virus or whether he contracted it while here from someone else.
The second passenger, who was also fully vaccinated and had a negative PCR test, came in to work on an offshore rig.
“One of them came in through the oil and gas stream, which is a little different. So they have some additional quarantine when you come into the country. Some of them work offshore so they would have been doing some routine testing and picked up that particular case,” Parasram said of that patient.
“The person had no symptoms at the time so the person was picked up in that regard and then sent to us for sequencing because of the recent travel, tested and we got the results a few weeks later. We would have been able to quarantine all the contacts of that individual, although they would have been in quarantine they would have still had contacts within that site, so it’s about seven or eight persons, so those persons would have been quarantined—all tested negative and discharged,” he said.
Despite this, the CMO said he still does not see any need for a change in the entry process.
“If we look at that cohort, two persons positive out of 14,222, it means that 99.986 per cent of them did not develop COVID upon entry into the country, at least that we are not aware. It is an extremely small percentage of people to change the policy for,” he said in giving the figures for the amount of people who had arrived since the borders reopened on July 17.
He said any additional layer of quarantine for fully vaccinated travellers would be unfair to the 99 per cent of travellers who don’t test positive after entry.
He credited the large success of the existing entry protocol to the provision of a mandatory negative PCR test taken within 72 hours of arrival which is sufficient.
“We have seen a substantial decrease in the number of positives we’re picking up (after entry) once we had that policy (negative PCR test) introduced a few months ago. Prior to that, we would have almost as much as 10 per cent of people coming in via repatriation being picked up. With that in place…unvaccinated (travellers) or not, it has gone down to about one per cent or thereabout,” he said.
He reiterated that people entering the country should be extra vigilant over the following two weeks upon arrival and get tested as soon as any symptoms develop. He said these travellers should also try to keep people they are in contact with to a minimum to reduce the risk of any onward transmission.
While the CMO referred to these two cases, Trinidad and Tobago has so far registered six Delta cases, all of whom travelled into this country.
Public health policy specialist Dr Mandreker Bahall also agreed with the Chief Medical Officer’s assertion that there was no need to adjust the entry protocols.
“I think the border policy is quite acceptable in light of our resource constraint and in light of when you’re fully vaccinated, the chance of spreading the disease is much less,” he said.
He said it would be infeasible to mandate the fully vaccinated travellers also quarantine upon entry.