Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley speaks on measures put in place to deal with the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) during yesterday’s sitting of Parliament.

Heightened action on the novel coronavirus (COVID-19)!

Schools and other places of learning will be closed from today for a week, people with flu-like symptoms will be discouraged from using public transport and businesses have been urged to be flexible with workplace arrangements.

These and other actions were announced in Parliament yesterday by Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley and other ministers to contain and deal with COVID19 issues.

“… Together, we must confront these challenges and together we must act with confidence that whatever it takes, together we will do it and together we will overcome,” Rowley declared after detailing the situation in Parliament.

The announcement followed Thursday’s confirmation of T&T’s first COVID-19 case: a locally-based businessman who returned Monday from Switzerland.

Four other COVID-19 cases transited through T&T in recent days. One case – a Guyanese woman – died in Guyana on Wednesday.

The number of samples being tested by Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) are also increasing – it went from 52 yesterday morning to 63 yesterday afternoon, according to the Health Ministry.

Rowley said, “It’s in times like these that we define who we are as a people. We’re currently facing two global phenomena that affect us directly and are both largely outside our realm of control – the widespread presence and deleterious effects of COVID-19 and the serious global disruption in the prices of oil, gas and energy-based products.”

Rowley detailed Government’s monitoring of the virus, adding, “We were one of the first countries in the world – first in the Western hemisphere – to take the proactive decision to impose travel restrictions to try and prevent the entry and restrict the spread of this virus.”

He said Government may even have to add more countries such as Switzerland and Norway to the list of restricted sources.

Rowley said the virus had been confirmed in five Caribbean countries so far.

“At least one of these confirmations has passed through T&T and used our air services at CAL. So for all practical purposes, we have been touched,” the PM said.

“(On Thursday) the unfortunate inevitable happened. We confirmed our first case. Fortunately, the businessman self-isolated and didn’t leave his house. When he began to feel ill on Wednesday and contacted public health, he and his family were quarantined.”

Rowley said at this stage, from today, all schools, universities and other places of learning would remain closed for one week in the first instance, “in order to slow the potential spread of any infection that might be with us at this time.”

He said a number of private schools have already closed to sanitise and as a precaution.

Repeating measures that will slow, delay and possibly prevent the virus spread, he advised, “Don’t expose yourself unnecessarily through non-essential mass gathering. Limit your exposure to public places.

“Be sensible about not exposing frail seniors or people with other health conditions to respiratory illness. People should stay at home if genuinely suffering from a respiratory illness. This isn’t a pass to skylark and evade your responsibility and play smart as an employee.

“Promote a workplace culture that supports people staying at home when genuinely sick. Try and avoid infecting other people at the household and outside of home.

“Managers and business owners should implement realistic sick leave policies. Be flexible with workplace arrangements. Allow people to work from home where feasible and act on Public Health recommendations.”