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State to pay 2 women for illegal quarantine

■ Rickie Ramdass

rickie.ramdass@trinidadexpress. com

THE State now has to fork out more than $.2 million to pay two women who were under State-supervised quarantine in 2020, having been suspected of contracting Covid-19 but turned out to be negative.

After close to two weeks in quarantine and being made to be among those who actually tested positive for the virus, the women eventually tested negative and were released from Caura Hospital.

Last week, Justice Avason Quinlan-Williams signed off on two consent orders in which the Office of the Attorney General agreed to pay Sasha Supersad and Vidya Lalla the sums of $100,000 and $115,000, respectively.

The two claimed they were unlawfully detained under Regulation 38(1)(b) of the Quarantine (Maritime) Regulations and Regulation 15 of the Quarantine (Air) Regulations.

Both had been given 'Quarantine Directions' to sign, but under the Regulations, only people who had entered this country from abroad and suffering from an infectious disease can lawfully be placed under State quarantine.

Neither Supersad nor Lalla had any recent travel history when they were detained by medical staff and placed under State-supervised quarantine.

Lalla has since died from an unrelated illness and therefore, the sum agreed upon by the State to be paid to her will instead be handed over to her husband.

The claims were filed by former attorney general Anand Ramlogan, SC, and attorneys Jayanti Lutchmedial, Robert Mitchell and Ganesh Saroop.

Rats and cockroaches

It was back in late March 2020, the same month Covid-19 reached the shores of Trinidad and Tobago, that the women were detained.

According to Lalla's affidavit, on March 28, she began experiencing flulike symptoms and sought medical attention by way of the Emergency Health Services (EHS).

She was taken to the Eric Williams Medical Sciences Complex (EWMSC) by ambulance and placed in a 'make-shift outdoor tent facility with limited food and water'.

There were also no beds or bedsheets and patients were forced to sleep on stretchers, she said.

'Around midnight, I asked to use the toilet since I continued to experience symptoms of diarrhoea. To my shock, horror and dismay I was sent to an area with disposable toilets similar to those found on construction sites.

'When I opened the door to the disposable toilet rats and cockroaches ran out onto my feet. I was scared and disgusted,' she said.

While at the tent, Lalla, 41, said she was informed she had to be tested for Covid and would receive the results within 24 hours.

However, the information was not forthcoming and on April 1, she was transferred to the Caura Hospital.

The conditions there were no better, she said.

Lalla claimed staff members were verbally abusive to her and threatened to place her in solitary confinement if she were to continue protesting her detention.

The ward she was on was also in deplorable condition since other patients had defecated on the floor and had to be cleaned by other patients, she said.

'I could not eat or sleep properly… At Caura I felt like my security was at risk. There was no bathroom or toilet designated for female use only. Men were walking in and out of the bathroom area while women were showering,' she said.

Even after Lalla received her first negative test result, she said she was told she had to remain at the institution for an additional seven days 'to make sure' she was negative.

It was only when that second negative result was received she was allowed to leave the hospital on April 10.

Terrible error

In her affidavit, Supersad, 31, said she went to the Arima Health Facility on the morning of March 30, and later transferred to the EWMSC because of her asthmatic condition.

She was also detained and later transferred to Caura and placed in the same ward as Lalla until April 9.

According to her affidavit, she also protested her stay at the facility and requested the opportunity to speak with her attorneys after being ordered to sign the quarantine form but this was refused by staff.

'I was forced to eat and sleep in the faeces- smeared room which was accompanied by the frequent urination on the floor by some patients.

'On the morning of April 8, 2020, I was given certain medication which I was instructed to take.

'Knowing that I was not on any medication I questioned the nurses about the nature and purpose as I was not aware that any medication had been prescribed for me by any doctor.

'It was only after I questioned them about it that they apologised and said that they had made a terrible error as it was for paraplegic patients and not me and 'is a good thing I talk out coz I coulda dead from the side effects'.

Supersad's attorneys eventually issued a pre-action protocol letter to Chief Medical Officer Dr Roshan Parasram while she was at the institution after which she was released having also tested negative for the virus.

FILED THE CLAIMS: Attorney Anand Ramlogan

MADE THE RULING: Justice Avason Quinlan-Williams



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