Security officers conducting checks at the main entrance at UWI Debe yesterday.


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There is now a warning to Government that unless it moves swiftly to ramp up COVID-19 testing, T&T could suffer the same fate as Jamaica, which recorded 52 cases in two days.

Speaking to Guardian Media yesterday, Oropouche East MP Dr Roodal Moonilal said there is a need for swift consultation with private laboratories to develop and implement policies for the expansion of testing. Jamaica went from 73 cases on April 13 to 125 on April 14. While this seems alarming, Moonilal said the figures rose as the Jamaica government increased testing through measures that included mobile testing stations.

“My warning to the government now is that they cannot undo two months of blindness but quickly take stock of what happened in Jamaica. I want the government to understand that Jamaica can be our future and so they should move speedily to ramp up testing, particularly in the private sector to get ahead of the estimated number of cases in T&T,” Moonilal said.

The former Housing and Urban Development Minister echoed the expressions of Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar that Government was not prepared to combat the pandemic. Moonilal said the government should work with the experienced medical professionals in the private sector to expand the framework for COVID-19 testing. This includes reporting protocols to the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) and the Ministry of Health, as well as covering the expense for citizens who cannot afford. He said this should already be in place.

“A People’s Partnership government would have done that in 48 hours. We would take 24 hours to establish a hotline and one week to buy 400,000 masks for the population. A UNC government would have been more prepared at January 31 with testing at private facilities and having the information, by law, transferred to CARPHA and the Ministry of Health.

“The Opposition in Parliament filed 33 questions in the lower and upper houses on this matter and raised motions as urgent matters of public importance on six occasions. We were very clear on the urgency of this matter and the Speaker denied it at all times. The Leader of the House of Representatives should apologise to Trinidad & Tobago for turning down this matter.”

Regarding the proposal to use the University of the West Indies, Debe Campus as a quarantine step-down facility, Moonilal said his constituents were pleased that after five years of abandonment, it would serve the public.

“We are certain that the facility in Debe will be light years ahead of the ‘Stalag 13’ in Sangre Grande. We expect there will be ample security and state of the art health and safety protocols, including ample protective gears and equipment to prevent any human mishaps that could endanger the health and lives of members of the community. We are not convinced that the Ministry of Health has the management capacity to create a strong institutional and organisational framework to manage temporary health facilities.”

He said the government is using the Couva Hospital and proposes to use the Arima Hospital, Point Fortin Hospital and the National Tennis Centre for COVID-19 treatment, all which were built during the People’s Partnership tenure between 2010-2015.