Minority Leader Watson Duke believes this country needs at least 100,000 covid19 test kits to properly combat the threat of the novel coronavirus.
In a Facebook live on Sunday, Duke said some people believe the Government is doing a good job so far. But he is not impressed, particularly with the treatment meted out to Tobagonians.
“Congrats, they have stopped 40 new cases from filtering in the public and affecting more. But what about those cases that may have slipped through? What about those cases? Are they really doing everything?” he asked.
Duke also addressed comments by Health Secretary Tracy Davidson-Celestine who, on Saturday, said the issue of locking down travel between Trinidad and Tobago is “under consideration.”
She said in the meantime, the authorities have been observing the passenger traffic between the two islands.
“From all indications, the number of persons travelling has been significantly reduced,” Davidson-Celestine told Newsday in a WhatsApp message.
“We also continue to appeal to persons to not travel unless it’s absolutely necessary.”
But speaking to Newsday on Sunday, Duke said the idea of restricting travel between the islands was illogical.
“I think it’s more idle chat of the Secretary for Health. Data will show there are over 375,000 Tobagonians with Trinidad heritage living in Trinidad or (vice versa). I know of persons whose mother and father are from Tobago but they were born in Trinidad. What do you say to those persons who want to come home? Do you ban them as Trinidadians? So it’s not a cut and dry issue.”
Duke said the real focus should be on stringent screening of visitors and citizens for the virus.
“What needs to be done, persons coming to Tobago must be properly screened at both ports – the boat and airport. And we need to start broadening the base of people being tested; not just people with full-blown covid but those who have the slightest symptoms.
“We need to have 100,000 tests and Tobago needs to start conducting its own tests. We need a grade four laboratory in Tobago. We need to have the best standards here. ”
Duke was also critical of the arrangement to have covid19 patients in Tobago transferred to Trinidad using Coast Guard vessels.
Last week it was announced by Davidson-Celestine that covid19 patients would be stabilised first at the Scarborough General Hospital and then transferred to Trinidad for further treatment.
Duke called that arrangement “barbaric” as the sea journey to Trinidad would not be ideal for a sick patient.
“We need to have persons treated in Tobago. We don’t want someone who is sick to put them on a boat to Trinidad. That’s not nice. Trinidadians wouldn’t give in to that. It’s inhumane, barbaric treatment.”
He added on Facebook, “Is that Coast Guard boat a luxury boat? No, it’s not… On the normal luxury boat people does get sick…They keep advantaging Tobago people…Why not a helicopter?”
Duke said Davidson-Celestine should be speaking about these issues.
“Instead, she speaking about lockdown. She doesn’t have the authority for national security issues and it’s beyond her capacity. So let her bat in her crease and think about giving those staff up there their gratuity and gloves and face masks and so forth.”
Up to news time on Sunday, there were 50 confirmed covid19 patients being treated in Trinidad.
Tobago West MP Shamfa Cudjoe and Chief Secretary Kelvin Charles said on Friday Tobagonians should not become complacent.Cudjoe said she had seen a video on social media in which about 15 young men were drinking openly in a village in her constituency, seemingly oblivious to the importance of practising social distancing in light of the covid19 threat.Charles also observed people were still congregating at wakes at funerals in Tobago despite repeated warnings by the Prime Minister to limit the number of people gathering in public spaces.
– with reporting by COREY CONNELLY