Parenco Trinidad and Tobago workers arrive at the Tradewinds Hotel in St Joseph Villag, San Fernando on Monday night.

Perenco Trinidad and Tobago Limited offshore workers are pleading with the relevant authorities for help, as they fear a mass COVID-19 contamination on the two major platforms they work on and within their families. This is because some of them claim positive and negative workers are still intermingling on the platform, while some of them were allowed to return to their homes before getting tests to confirm whether they had the virus or not.

The appeal came even as the company moved a batch of 18 workers from one of the rigs to the Tradewinds Hotel in San Fernando last night. Those workers, who have not so far tested positive for the virus, were taken to the Galeota Port then shuttled to San Fernando around 7.51 pm. On Sunday, some 35 workers were evacuated from the Teak Alpha platform and taken into state quarantine at the University of the West Indies’ Debe campus after they tested positive.

Workers yesterday disregarded the company’s warning not to speak to the media to keep Guardian Media updated on the situation. They claimed proper protocols were not being followed by the company and insisted positive cases were still on the duty to ensurer the operations were kept running.

“Two members of the catering company were sent to perform sanitation duties from one field to the inflicted field. We have learnt that they too were infected by COVID-19. The men that came did not have the appropriate protective equipment to perform the assigned task. Persons that left Teak Alpha prior to the publicity are now finding themselves positive; these individuals would have already come into contact with numerous persons,” one worker, who did not want to be identified, said.

“The social distancing for some part is not being adhered to, as people are forced to sleep in cramped four-person rooms. I was informed that another batch of COVID negative employees are being taken off the Teak A facility today (yesterday), these are to be quarantined for 14 days.

“The facilities are being run by less than adequate COVID-19-positive persons who are under duress. It was stated that they will not be paid if they don’t work. The intimidating tactics continue to be the norm by the French nationals and locals in key positions.”

The workers claim the outbreak started on the Teak Alpha facility when a French national exhibited signs of being ill two weeks ago. Workers claimed that when French nationals come into the country to join work crews, there is no proper isolation protocol as stipulated under the Government’s COVID-19 regulations.

“This practice was observed to be the norm by both staff and contract employees. This can give rise to a spread to what we currently have,” another worker, who wished to remain anonymous, said although insisting “the truth will set them free.”

The workers claim 13 positive workers and 18 negative workers are now being asked to man the Teak Alpha location until they can bring in fresh workers.

“Perenco does not want to shut down and have a proper sanitising crew placed on board. We interface with machinery and plant on a regular basis. They have positive operators still on shift handing over to negative operators on the night shift. This is being done without proper sanitisation of computers and desks. Since the PCR tests were done for all persons, the negative and positive persons were sleeping in rooms together,” one worker claimed.

Another worker claimed that on the Teak Delta platform there are four people, one of whom tested positive. The workers are worried that the positive person is intermingling with the negative individuals.

“They (company) have not sent home the positive person, as he is the Away Team Leader. They (Perenco) value production over human lives. The negative persons can contract COVID through the use of the galley on Teak Delta, as there is one control room.”

Guardian Media understands the first local worker started complaining of flu-like symptoms on December 7. A worker who knows that victim said although the policy states his colleague should have been sent home he was not. Three days later, the worker was finally sent home after his symptoms worsened to a high fever with body pains.

“On December 9 he was sent home from the platform to the Galeota terminal, where he was sent directly home. No one met him to administer the test,” the worker said of his co-worker’s case.

“He took it upon himself to visit the health centre and did a PCR test. He got results on December 15, which he relayed to the company. But by the 15th there were others that started displaying COVID symptoms. The medic again did not follow policy and kept on treating persons for flu. This made matters worse, as everyone was unaware that there was a positive case. Policy of segregation of suspected COVID cases was not followed.”

He added, “Many members of the platforms departed and they have not been informed. Many may be spreading this virus and not know. I believe the truth will set us free.”

Questions sent to the Energy Minister Franklin Khan and Chief Medical Officer Dr Roshan Parasram last evening went unanswered up to last night.

Perenco responds

We refer to certain statements and articles made via Trinidad and Tobago media regarding the status of personnel on the Samaan and Teak platforms operated by Perenco T&T Limited (“Perenco”).

During December 2020, some personnel, who began experiencing flu-like symptoms were evacuated from the Teak Alpha platform and brought to shore, in keeping with Perenco’s Emergency Response Procedure for the management of Covid-19. Personnel were sent for PCR testing and subsequently Perenco was notified that each of these individuals had tested positive for Covid-19. These persons were placed in quarantine and are currently under the guidance of the Ministry of Health (MOH).

Upon receipt of confirmation of the first positive Covid-19 test result, the Incident Management Team was activated to manage the situation. Under the approval from the MOH, Perenco determined that a full assessment of the situation at a platform level was needed and all personnel from the Teak Field were PCR tested for Covid-19. Following receipt of these results and approval from the MOH, plans were put in place for the safe demobilisation of all personnel from the Field; this commenced on Sunday 20th December, 2020.

Transportation of personnel to the designated quarantine facility was carried out in coordination with the MOH. Perenco has continued PCR testing of all personnel throughout the TSP Field and is continuing to work closely with the MOH on the management of the situation to ensure the health and safety of all at this time.

Perenco, under the guidance of the MOH, continues to assess the status of all personnel offshore and take all necessary measures inclusive of full sanitization of its facilities to ensure the health and safety of its workforce.