Health Minister Terrance Deyalsingh at yesterday’s COVID 19 press briefing at the Diplomatic Centre in St Ann’s, yesterday.

The Ministry of Health is set to “ramp up” testing for COVID-19 from next week, paving the way for random tests to be done on citizens and not only those who fall into the criteria for COVID-19.

The tests would detect any hidden cases of the virus in the community.

Minister of Health Terrence Deyalsingh said in a virtual press conference yesterday, the country would begin the surveillance testing from Tuesday; randomly testing select citizens in every county.

“From Tuesday, we’ll be selecting one health centre in every county where we’ll be randomly sampling people who have viral illness symptoms—not necessarily COVID. But once you have a viral illness symptom—a stuffy nose, a cough, a fever—we will start that enhanced protocol of sampling,” the minister explained.

“The Chief Medical Officer is driving this initiative and what that would do, as he has told me, is give us some idea of what is circulating in the country besides COVID and if COVID is there in these communities that we don’t know about.”

Asked whether this new stage of testing would be facilitated by the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) Deyalsing said: “The expanded testing is being done in conjunction with CARPHA so these surveillance test would not be rejected. This is to find out what is in circulation. It’s part of surveillance.”

CARPHA’s Medical Microbiology Laboratory in T&T is currently the only source of testing for the virus.

Yesterday the agency issued a call for technical experts to help with its work for COVID-19, asking for skilled persons in health assessments, contact tracing, environmental risk analysis and other areas to apply to work in the region.

It said those who were successful would be deployed in 24 to 48 hours.

Two more discharges imminent

Deyalsingh yesterday indicated that two patients were being eyed for discharge over the course of the day pending the receipt of a second negative test result. The Minister of Health and Chief Medical Officer Dr Roshan Parasram, at previous press conferences, explained that in order for a patient to be discharged, they must be asymptomatic for seven days and receive two negative PCR test results 24 hours apart before being discharged. Those discharged would also be required to self-quarantine for a further seven days as a precaution.

Balandra quarantined

to return home

The minister also indicated that the remaining 22 persons currently quarantined at Camp Balandra were also expected to be sent home soon. These are the remaining people from the cluster who returned from Guadelupe and weren’t infected with COVID-19.

Deyalsingh said samples were taken yesterday and the ministry is awaiting the results.

“Once their tests come back negative, and we’re hoping and praying they do, they would be able to go home,” he said.

More to be transferred

out of Couva Hospital

Meanwhile, some 32 people were expected to be transferred out of the Couva Hospital before the day’s end to a step-down facility. Deyalsingh, at a previous press conference, explained these step-down facilities were being used to facilitate patients who were on their way to recovery to free up resources at the hospitals.

A facility in Sangre Grande was identified for the transfer of patients, but residents protested saying they were afraid they would be infected because of the facility’s close proximity to homes.