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Trinidad: No new protocols following discovery of UK COVID-19 variant

Published:Friday | January 22, 2021 | 3:49 PM
Trinidad and Tobago's Minister of Health, Terrence Deyalsingh (CMC photo).

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, Jan. 22, CMC – As health officials urged the population not to panic about the discovery of the United Kingdom variant of COVID-19, Minister of Health Terrence Deyalsingh on Friday said there would be no new restrictions or protocols in the twin-island republic.

Speaking at a virtual press conference a day after the Health Ministry disclosed that a Trinidadian national had returned to the twin-island republic carrying the UK COVID-19 variant (Variant B117), Deyalsingh stated that the “index case has been successfully contained” by the existing quarantine protocols.

Research has suggested that the UK strain is more easily spread from person to person than previous strains. It is estimated to be 50 per cent more transmissible.

Although not denying the case was of concern to authorities, Deyalsingh said the country would respond “calmly, logically and in the best interest of all.”

“The message to the public today is one of heightened concern, and we are going to be continually reviewing the epidemiological evidence as we have been doing since the start of the pandemic. Now is a time for all of us to be even more vigilant,” he said.

He added: “It is one case so far but we are continually reviewing the evidence. At this point in time, it is not the intention of the Ministry of Health to recommend any further restrictions; that is counterproductive. But, we are asking people not to gather. Whilst this new variant at this time is not in the general population . . . the only and best tool or weapon we have against the virus right now are the public health measures.” 

As of January 19, 60 countries and territories outside the UK have reported imported cases or community transmission of Variant B117.

The Ministry of Health said Thursday that the presence of the strain was confirmed via a gene sequencing study at the Faculty of Medical Sciences, University of the West Indies, which has been testing COVID-19 positive samples collected since September 2020.

The repatriated national who brought the variant home, had provided a negative PCR test that was taken 72 hours prior to departure from the UK, in keeping with Trinidad and Tobago’s quarantine protocols.

“Upon arrival in Trinidad and Tobago, the national was immediately placed in state quarantine, in a single room. The patient was transferred directly to an isolation area at the Couva Hospital and Multi-training Facility once the positive COVID-19 result was confirmed,” the Ministry said in a statement.

The Ministry said returning nationals from the UK will be required to be in state quarantine for 14 days, while returning nationals from all other high-risk countries will be subject to seven days state quarantine and seven days home quarantine.

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