Trinidad and Tobago opposition leader calls for increase COVID-19 testing, measures to stem spread

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Opposition Leader, Kamla Persad-Bissessar

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad — The opposition United Nation Congress (UNC) is very concerned that the government of Trinidad and Tobago has not yet embarked on a long overdue, aggressive nation-wide COVID-19 testing policy, in the wake of the latest statements on the issue by prime minister, Dr Keith Rowley.

At a news conference on Saturday, August 29, 2020, prime minister, Dr Rowley proffered no new measures to combat this deadly crisis, despite the alarming increase in COVID-19 positive cases among citizens across the length and breadth of Trinidad and Tobago.

Apart from legally mandating the wearing of masks in public, the government is worryingly continuing its dangerous trend of failing to adequately respond to this deadly pandemic in an effective, timely manner. This trend can result in even more medical, social and economic instability in our battered nation.

The opposition has supported the legislative initiative for mandatory wearing of masks in public, and we are now calling on the government to engage in similar aggressive and practical initiatives to combat the COVID-19 spread.

We, therefore, repeat our longstanding mantra for government to immediately procure rapid testing kits so that we can genuinely get a real idea of the levels of community spread.

We call on the government to immediately embark on renewed, urgent, national consultations with the opposition and other critical business, labour and social sector stakeholders.

Such talks would assist in ensuring that there is a proper and workable national plan in place to deal with the harmful medical, economic and social fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic.

A workable national plan is especially necessary since the government has abandoned their promises of pandemic leave for employees as there was no mention of its status by the prime minister. Also, people who applied for the salary grant are reportedly still waiting for relief months later.

As more and more businesses close their doors, the government has yet not put forward any plan to create sustainable jobs.

The prime minister also notably made no mention whatsoever of what his government is doing to protect our borders from the influx of illegal visitors, who are being linked to the local community spread of COVID-19 in recent months.

The national security ministry must immediately address this issue, and duly and urgently inform the public of same.

The opposition also proposes the following immediate steps to help stem the spread of the virus:

  • Establish a COVID-19 Intelligence where all national security agencies will communicate and execute strategic plans and operations in unison;
  • Deploy teams of health officers to ensure COVID-19 regulations’ compliance by businesses and the general public;
  • Urgently secure 100,000 rapid tests (enough to test about 10 percent of our population) and which will give results within 30 minutes;
  • Stock up suitable amounts of personal protective equipment (PPE) for our frontline workers as well as more beds, ventilators, and other medical equipment must be made available for expected increases that will come with the ramped-up testing.

The opposition urges all to continue to follow all health guidelines set out by the World Health Organisation, obey the laws regarding social distancing and wearing of masks, and commit to battling this pandemic together, as a united people and nation.

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