The health minister is encouraging citizens who have recently travelled to China, or who know someone who has, to get themselves to the nearest health facility.

Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh is urging citizens who were planning to travel to china, to avoid doing so, unless it is absolutely necessary.

The minister issued the public advisory on CNC3’s The Morning Brew today:

“I am urging everyone who is thinking about going to China for non-essential travel to please, not go. It is not in your best interest to go to China at this point in time.”

The health minister is encouraging citizens who have recently travelled to China, or who know someone who has, to get themselves to the nearest health facility.

The minister observes that because of the conflicting information as to whether the virus can be transmitted from person-to-person, and whether that happens even if no symptoms are seen or felt, country’s like ours have no choice but err on the side of caution, and use all possible measures to protect our populations.

Minister Deyalsingh will be taking a note to Cabinet concerning protocols for managing a possible coronavirus outbreak in T&T. He also will present recommendations for the creation of an early warning system concerning health epidemics for this country, as well as for one for CARICOM.

“We need to protect ourselves from these shocks. From 2009 to now, we have had a series of public health threats which need focussed attention and policy intervention now,” he says, “and Trinidad and Tobago will lead that conversation.”

Don’t forget about your flu shots…

But the health minister is worried that in the midst of the furore over what’s happening in China, everyone is forgetting about the very serious influenza.

“We have Carnival coming up,” he warns. “The influenza virus that will come down from North America and England is a bigger threat than the coronavirus. And the best way to beat that is to get vaccinated.”

Scanning and screening protocols in effect

County Medical Officer, Dr Osafo Fraser, confirms that all incoming passengers from countries of concern will be scanned when they enter Trinidad and Tobago.

“Those who are coming from the places of interest—North America, Panama and the UK—everyone is being scanned,” he explains. “As you get off the jet bridge, you will see a port health officer standing there with this camera that looks like a camera. That’s what it is. It is not an x-ray; it is an infra-red thermal scanner.”

Dr Fraser says once someone with a fever is detected in the screening process—something the thermal scanners will pick up very quickly—they will be interviewed to determine their travel history, and their interaction with possibly infected persons.

“We need to determine: were you in China? Were you in Wuhan City? Were you in contact with anyone who was ill who was in Wuhan City? Those are the key things we are trying to determine,” he notes. “If those answers are negative, then you are not at risk for the virus at this point in time.”

Dr Fraser reports that so far, T&T’s port health officers have screened some 16,000 passengers and crew, from over 200 flights.

“We’re doing that around the clock,” he assures. “Our port health officers are working very hard, and they’re making sure to scan everyone. Once you come through that bridge you’re going to be scanned.”

T&T ready to quarantine suspected cases

Dr Osafo Fraser told us if the ministry receives an alert of one confirmed case of the virus on any flight, the entire flight will be screened and quarantined for at least a short period, to ascertain everyone’s travel histories and contact information.

He also gave assurances that the health ministry has the wherewithal to house a flight of 100-plus persons, should the need arise, at the Piarco International Airport.