Trinidad and Tobago is now prepared for the arrival of any passenger with the novel coronavirus.
This was the underlying sentiment expressed by Ministry of Health officials during a simulation of the various protocols implemented at the Piarco International Airport and the Caura Hospital yesterday.
At the airport Minister of Health Terrence Deyalsingh once again iterated that the threat of the virus reaching here remains low.
“The threat for coronavirus entering the Caribbean- Caricom territories as defined by CARPHA/PAHO remains low to remote,” he said while contextualising the recent statistics presented on the virus.
Journalists were given a tour of the facilities in place at the airport to detect and isolate passengers who may be carrying the virus. But while there were only two isolation rooms with one bed, respectively, Chief Medical Officer Dr Roshan Parasram explained that they were to be utilised for the rare cases. He indicated that if the need arises, an entire flight can be quarantined while on the runway.
Then, he explained, passengers can be taken directly to hospitals for further isolation via ambulances which would arrive on the runway.
For those with the highest probability of having the coronavirus, the Caura Hospital has been specially outfitted to quarantine them with the employ of a private service provider, Sanitec Limited.
The structure on the compound designed to quarantine patients during the Ebola scare in the not too distant past was outfitted with modern features such as a state-of-the-art, portable sanitation zones for entering and exiting the quarantine zone.
This would allow for the protection of the healthcare workers who “may have to deal with these things,” Deyalsingh said.
However, despite the upgrades, there are only four beds in the unit. But as Minister Deyalsingh explained, this is more than enough.
“The United States which has a population of over 300 million people and has direct air links to China, as of today, only has 11 cases of corona(virus). Australia only has five. We are a small country of 1.3 million people where people coming from China have to make two and three stops along the way. When you look at all these factors, four beds which were set up for Ebola and which we are now using for coronavirus will be in our estimation, more than enough,” Deyalsingh said.
He also indicated that these factors being used in tandem with the other measures implemented such as the travel restriction “are working.”
Responding to questions from journalists at the tour, the Chief Medical Officer indicated that treatment for this virus is just like that of any other viral illness. He also assured that if it reached the country, there is adequate medication to treat the cases.
“We actually had a meeting with…Nipdec who’s our procurement agency to look at the backlog stock quantities to ensure that they have sufficient quantities in the event that it scales up. And they have indicated to us that most of these items are well stocked at this point and we also looking at alternative markets to make sure that in the event that we need more, we can get them quickly,” he said.
He explained the treatment would include using common medication such as Panadol and intravenous solutions and in extreme cases, adequate intensive care.