Perenco employees who tested negative for COVID-19 check into the Tradewinds Hotel in San Fernando on Monday night. Over 50 of their co-workers who tested positive for the virus are now in quarantine at the University of the West Indies’ Debe campus.

Perenco Trinidad and Tobago Limited yesterday shut down COVID-hit offshore platforms in its Teak, Samaan and Poui fields and transported all workers to either state facilities or other locations for quarantine pending testing.

This after Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh reportedly intervened in the matter following continuing complaints from workers.

Yesterday evening, 16 more workers who tested positive, along with a French national, were transported to the University of the West Indies’ Debe campus for state quarantine. The French national, however, was taken by ambulance to an undisclosed location.

Over 20 workers who tested negative are also currently being housed at the Tradewinds Hotel in San Fernando for observation for the next 14 days. Guardian Media understands that is a private arrangement between the hotel’s management and Perenco.

Up to last night, a sanitising crew had already sanitised the Teak AC living quarters. Teak AC, according to workers, is connected to Teak Alpha, where the first outbreak which hit 35-plus workers over the weekend occurred. The cleaning crew is expected to return today to complete the exercise.

Guardian Media understands that as the company evacuated the 16 positive workers yesterday, eight people were flown in via helicopter to monitor generators on the platforms until the operations resume.

On Tuesday, the Banking, Insurance and General Workers Union (BIGWU) sent a letter to Chief Medical Officer Dr Roshan Parasram, asking him to intervene in the situation.

In the correspondence, BIGWU acting president Mario Als called on the CMO “to investigate and determine whether Perenco has met the required standards to ensure not only the health, safety and well-being of their employees, but also the public at large.”

“We are certain that you can and will appreciate the heightened state of anxiety and stress that this situation is causing amongst the workers and their families and urge and appeal for immediate attention to be paid to the matter,” the letter stated.

Als told the CMO attempts by workers to get information from Perenco had been met with a standard formal response that Ministry of Health guidelines were being followed, “a response that the union and workers consider as being more than sadly wanting, as it in no way allays the fears and concerns of workers and their families for their health and safety amidst the high incidence of COVID-19 cases on Perenco’s platforms.”

Guardian Media was told that just after 6 pm yesterday, 16 more workers who tested positive were taken via a shuttle boat to Point Galeota, where they were met by health officials who escorted them to UWI’s Debe campus. They joined 35 other co-workers who were sent there on Sunday after also testing positive.

On Monday night, 18 workers who tested negative but were allowed to mingle with the positive cases, were transported to the Tradewinds Hotel for observation for a 14-day period. Yesterday, four more negative cases were taken to the hotel.

Yesterday, a worker currently in quarantine at UWI, said some of his colleagues are badly off.

“Some of them are very, very sick. They hardly have the strength to do anything. We were treated very unfairly in this matter, putting our lives and our families’ lives at stake. I would think that the company was reckless in handling the situation, as proper protocols weren’t observed from the beginning,” the worker claimed.

Workers claimed although positive cases were increasing, the company only moved to shut down its operations at the Teak, Samaan and Poui Fields yesterday.

“Now that everything is out in the open, they now shutdown operations and now looking to do the right thing, which they should have done from earlier this month when the French national was brought in and started to display flu-like symptoms,” one of the workers said.

“The company failed to do proper contact tracing from him, that’s why it reached the stage it has reached. Now taking in mind that some of these workers who may have been in contact left the platforms and returned home to their families unknowingly, that they may have contracted the COVID-19.”

In a late night release yesterday, Perenco confirmed that “as of December 22, 2020, Perenco has demobilised all personnel from the relevant Teak platforms.”

“These persons were transported to designated quarantine facilities, as guided and approved by the Ministry of Health (MOH). Full sanitisation and sterilisation of all areas on these platforms are being conducted in order to ensure the safety of all personnel.”

It added that for incoming expatriate personnel, who make up a small part of the offshore workforce, “all quarantine and PCR testing protocols have been, and continue to be, strictly followed.”

“Perenco has, and continues to follow, all procedures and protocols as outlined by the MOH and other governmental authorities,” the release stated.

Perenco assured that despite recent media reports, “it has been following the MOH guidelines and has been taking all necessary measures to ensure the safety and welfare of all personnel. We will continue to provide support and prioritise the health and welfare of our personnel at all times.”