No time to mourn for Tobago’s first coronavirus victim

By Trinidad Newsday

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FINAL RITES: A man reads from the Bible on Sunday at the burial of Tobago’s first covid19 fatality at the Buccoo public cemetery. PHOTO BY LEEANDRO NORAY –

(TRINIDAD NEWSDAY) — Dead on Palm Sunday, buried on Palm Sunday.

Relatives of Tobago’s first covid19 fatality were left reeling as only minutes after being contacted and told of their loved one’s demise, they were contacted again and ordered to choose five among themselves and hustle to the Buccoo public cemetery for his immediate burial.

“I know there is a need for urgency as we are dealing with this covid19 thing, but they handled my father as if he was an animal that get bounce down and as soon as he dead, they put him in his hole and cover him up. We had no time to cry together as a family, no time to say goodbye…no time to mourn,” cried the son of the victim.

The son said his father, who was in his eighties, died Sunday morning at Scarborough General Hospital and by 1 pm, he was already six feet under, buried in a sealed casket. A backhoe was used to fill the hole up with dirt and diggers were not allowed. The son told Newsday they did not even know who was officiating at the burial.

Newsday was alerted to the death via a press release from the Health Ministry which replaced the daily virtual press conference. Moments later, relatives and friends took to social media to share their grief over the man’s death. The ministry release said the country’s 7th covid19 fatality, had a pre-existing medical condition.

The man’s son said while the family understands the seriousness of the virus they wished they could have at least had a chance to work with health officials to organise a “more decent” farewell.

“They just handled him like an animal they were dealing with. He was a person, a man whom people loved. It’s a very sad situation because they called us to say he died, then called back to say they going to bury him one time and that they’ll call us back to tell us where and the time. We could not even see him at rest in the coffin,” the weeping son said.

“We in Tobago like to have a lil wake and prayers the night before the funeral. We are left in the middle of a family meeting trying to decide what our next move is.” The son dismissed reports that his father’s case was an imported one, saying his father had no travel history. He insisted his father’s case was one of community spread.

He said although his father was over 80 years, he would move around the village to interact with friends and family daily. “My father didn’t go anywhere apart from within the village. He was always home minding cow, so 4 am every morning, he would check on them. He was never really a travel guy.”

The son said another relative last spoke to his father a week ago. Within that time, the elderly man developed symptoms and was hospitalised, never to return home again. He described his father as a man who loved food and loved to cook. “He was a man who used to be cooking for all his bosses. Plenty of people knew him.”

He said the family is struggling to come to terms with the death and already, there is disagreement stirring up among relatives. His voice breaking with emotion, the man said he regrets not having a chance to say goodbye. “I want my father back. We were best of friends. Things happened recently that caused us to fall apart and now he come and dead…I never get to say any last words to him,” the man cried.

The son confirmed that those relatives who were in close contact with his father, remain in self-quarantine at the family’s home. Another relative said that the deceased was very active in the village. “He was a man who didn’t even fly to Trinidad but he was very active in the village. He would have interacted with anything like 200 people. He was very active so now I’m a bit fearful,” the female relative said.

A release from the THA’s Division of Health stated that up to Sunday morning, Tobago submitted 74 samples to the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) laboratory. Three cases were recorded including the island’s first fatality.

Nineteen people have completed quarantine in Tobago and were allowed to go home after showing no symptoms within the quarantine period while 43 people are still under isolation at the Division’s quarantine facilities. Nationally, 797 samples have been submitted to CARPHA, 104 people have tested positive and seven people have died. One person had been discharged.

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