Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh, has confirmed that Trinidad and Tobago has operationalised its National Pandemic Preparedness Plan, to ensure the country’s readiness to deal with the novel coronavirus, COVID-19.
He gave an update on T&T’s COVID-19 preparedness, on CNC3’s THE MORNING BREW show today.
Pointing out that it is not a matter of “if” but “when” the virus hits our shores, the health minister reports that Cabinet has set up a National Standing Committee, headed by the Chief Medical Officer, and which comprises all government ministries and agencies necessary to the country’s preparedness efforts, including representatives from:
- Commissioner of Police;
- Customs and Immigration
- The Ministries of National Security, Local Government, Education, and Labour;
- Tobago House of Assembly (THA);
- Tobago Emergency Management Authority (TEMA)
The Committee will advise the ministers of Health and National Security on what should be done on a national level for both COVID-19, as well as any other infectious disease which may occur in the future.
Its first meeting will be on Thursday 5th March 2020.
“We have operationalised that Committee,” Minister Deyalsingh confirms. “There was an Ad Hoc Committee set up for Ebola back in 2014. That was a good lesson in preparedness, and now we have taken that one step further by setting up this National Standing Committee that is going to be there all the time, spearheading national response plans.”
The health minister notes that not everyone who contracts COVID-19 will need to be isolated in Intensive Care Units (ICUs), since 81 percent of cases will be mild, and another 14 percent can be quarantined at home.
He says there will be beds for the estimated five percent of cases needing intensive care treatment.
According to the minister, some 25 beds will be available at Caura Hospital, and another 67 beds at the new St James Medical Complex, within roughly two weeks. In addition, he says another 70-odd beds will be available at a new block at the Port of Spain Hospital—the old COSTATT Building—which was designed to include isolation capacity.
He says in the event of a national outbreak, the facilities at the Couva Children’s Hospital & Diagnostic Centre will be co-opted—that’s an additional 230 beds, with ICU capacity—leaving the ICUs at other hospitals in the health care system free to deal with other kinds of emergencies.
Minister Deyalsingh explains that the treatment system for COVID-19 will run parallel to the regular health system:
“I am planning to have a parallel system—one dealing with COVID-19 and the normal health care system running as usual—so our patients aren’t bumped off. They get their normal service.”