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The Motion is therefore carried.

Leader of Assembly Business.

3.04 P.M

We have just heard our Secretary of Settlements and Labour and the contribution he has made.

Mr. Presiding Officer, the one time, that I text my colleague I said, “You have plenty time today.”  [Laughter]  But I am really sorry about his throat.

Our Division of Settlement in the way you give support in terms of your housing developments and your work within that process, we really want to commend you.

Our Division of Agriculture, Marine Affairs, Marketing and the Environment and in the way that you provide support and working together in treating with the environment, in treating with the dissemination of information and the way in which your Division would give support in introducing fish into ponds and so, we see this as a way of eating the mosquito Larvae and I think that that is really, really creative and innovative.  [Laughter]

The Assembly Legislature assist in disseminating information to staff, to your twelve (12) electoral districts and the public at large especially at Plenary Sittings and a one (1) week will be designated to change all screen savers to the “Don’t Get Bite” advertisement.  So, we want to commend the Assembly Legislature Secretariat for the support.  I can go on and on.   We have the Tobago Hotel and the Tourism Association but all of this is to say that we are all in this together.  My biggest appeal at this time is for all of us to buy-in with the same message on the same page - “Don’t Get Bite”, clean up your surroundings, we are all in this together and we are everybody’s keeper.

Mr. Presiding Officer, again, I beg to move.  [Desk thumping]

Question put and agreed to.


Thank you Mr. Presiding Officer. [Desk thumping] 

I really want to take this opportunity to commend my colleagues, the Councillor and Secretary of Infrastructure and Public Utilities; our Councillor and Secretary of Community Development and Culture; and our Councillor and Secretary of Settlements and Labour.   I really want to bring this out and “big up” our Councillors. Today, is Councillor’s day, Mr. Presiding Officer. [Desk thumping] [Laughter] 

I really want to commend the way in which my Colleagues, Members of the Executive Council and our Assemblymen; in buying into the responsibility for managing the control of mosquitoes on the island.  Really, it is not only about managing the mosquitoes, but managing the mindset for working together collaboratively and coordinating our work in such a way that we create the kind of movement on the island to keep the Zika Virus away as well as Chikungunya, Dengue and H1N1.  So today, we celebrate that in terms of the way we move forward.  It is not only about those Members who spoke today, who we have heard and heard their contributions, but all of our Secretaries and Assistant Secretaries are committed in getting this work done.  So, Mr. Presiding Officer, I really want to take the time off to commend them and of course to commend again, the members of staff of the Division of Health and Social Services and the Tobago Regional Health Authority and the way in which the public, our members out there, our community leaders, our members out there who are working collaboratively with us.  That is what we call, “The Integrated Management System” - all of the Assembly and all of our society working together with the same goal.  

So, Mr. Presiding Officer, I just want to really briefly speak to some of the collaborative efforts that we have on board.  For example:

  • The Office of the Chief Secretary, where the members are committed to assist with Audio and Video Productions of the Zika Ads;

  • Produce stories to feature, “Let’s talk Tobago” surrounding control of mosquito breathing sites; 

  • Assist with developing a Media Marketing Plan;  

  • Assist in disseminating information to all stakeholders via Email and so on; 

and of course 

  • The Office of the Chief Secretary, we speak of a TEMA’s work, an integral part of the Tobago Public Health Response Team in assisting in creating a Crisis Communication Plan; 

  • Drafting tools for dissemination, flyers, posters, TV Ads, bumper stickers and so on; 

  • Assist in sharing information on the crisis strategy via interviews and webinars

Mr. Presiding Officer, we have heard the Division of Community Development and Culture in their commitment for officers in the field who can assist in disseminating information to our group, our Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), our FBOs (Faith Based Organization) and individuals within the communities.  Of course, use of the community centres to host meetings and to develop programmes and to really sustain the community spirit in the whole Clean-up Campaign and information as how not to get bitten.   

Mr. Presiding Officer, of course, there are other programmes that we are hoping we can work together on such as the singers and actors under the Divisions purview to be utilized to create jingles and skits to publicize the message, and print the message of “Don’t Get Bite” at the back of their event  flyers.  Those are some of the ways that I know that they are committed. 

The Division of Tourism and Transportation assist in disseminating information on social media and Websites.  As you the destination Tobago, therefore, we really must protect the destination in terms of the economic viability for Tourism as well as we always speak of taking care of our people first and we can now share our place with other people.  So, Mr. Presiding 

Officer, assisting in disseminating information especially to the stakeholders, to the hotels, to the other tourism destinations and so really share with brochures, posters, various stakeholders, both internally and externally.  

        The Division of Education, Youth Affairs and Sport, meeting with the principals, with the teachers and “out of the mouth of babes and suckling” we get the message out there.  So we continue to work with our schools in changing the mindset, in creating the kind of Recycling Programme partnering with education to create that kind of programme for cleaning the place.  As you know we have met some people who said long ago, the children use to clean up and they sang “Bits of paper, bits of paper lying on the floor” and they do not think that is happening.  Well we want that to continue to happen and so our children would continue to be a part of this process.

2.54 P.M

Burning of bushes and clearing of the areas can also an aid in smoking out the breathing sites of mosquitoes. I am not advocating, Mr. Presiding Officer, in any way, that individual start bush fires. I am informed that the Fire Department gives individuals permission to start and manage small fires, so in that light, anyone who wants to do such can seek the relevant permission from the Fire Department.

Mr. Presiding Officer, creating and building the awareness is one aspect in combating the Zika Virus.  But we as a people, all Tobagonians must take responsibility for themselves, their families and their respective living spaces.  We can stand here in this House and speak to all the initiatives and strategies being employed to ensure that we eradicate breathing spaces of the Aedes Aegypti mosquito and we can do all in our power at the Executive Council Level.  However, if the Perifocal Officers do not do their part, if the Fire Officers do not do their part, if homeowners do not do their part, if business operators do not do their part, if the entire populace of Tobago do not do their part, then somebody or some people will get bitten. 

So, Mr. Presiding Officer, if we want to avoid getting bitten, just as the mantra says and the tag line for the campaign, “Don’t Get Bite”, I humbly suggest that we all do our part.  We cannot do this on our own, but with the collaboration of all homeowners and business owners, we can indefinitely, undoubtedly do it together.  

I thank you Mr. Presiding Officer. [Desk thumping] 


Thank you very much, Mr. Presiding Officer.  You would forgive me this afternoon because I suspect that I have a frog in my throat, but I would try my best to jump it out before the evening is out.

Mr. Presiding Officer, I rise in support of this Motion, to give credence to the mover of the Motion – the Member for Black Rock/Whim/Spring Garden.   As I stand, allow me to acknowledge, the work that the Member and her assistant – Member for Mason Hall has been doing and continues to do in the Assembly.   Mr. Presiding Officer, because as we stand here and we speak to this particular Motion, it is incumbent on all of us to acknowledge that this virus is a serious one and we all have the responsibility to bring the awareness to the populace of Tobago.  

So as Members of the Tobago House of Assembly, we are doing our part and we are responsible for ensuring that the information gets out there Mr. Presiding Officer.   But what is incumbent upon the populace, all Tobagonians are to also do their part because we will disseminate the information, we will do what is necessary to ensure that preventative measures are taking place but home owners, business operators, Members of the community, Tobagonians as a whole have a responsibility to do their part as well to prevent the spreading of this particular virus and the mosquito breeding as a matter of fact.

So, as we work in collaboration and in unison with the Division of Health and Social Services to combat the Aedes Aegypti mosquito, we continue to work tirelessly to eradicate the breeding spaces.  

At present, we are disseminating information to all our staff in the Division of Settlements and Labour and our clients to ensure that they are fully aware as to the preventative measures to safeguard their families and their communities and to treat with preventing of the breeding of the mosquito.

Mr. Presiding Officer, cleaning of drains and landscaping of green spaces will continue from a divisional standpoint.   However, as I said before, it is the responsibility of homeowners to ensure that they take the necessary action to avoid their homes becoming breeding spaces for mosquitoes.   There are a number of measures that can be employed for instance - Tobago has a vast expanse of swamp lands that is part of our wetlands ecological system and as such, we need to ensure that those ecological course ways are cleaned regularly and I am quite certain, my Colleague Secretary with responsibility for the Environment, Secretary Adams will take cognizance of that and has been doing that.

Mr. Presiding Officer, the natural eco-systems, once maintained will be able to assist with controlling the insect population.  However, with the introduction of foreign materials such as: 

  • Trash; 

  • Toxic waste; and

  • Household waste; 

Sometimes, they can affect these ecological systems from functioning in their natural potential.  Therefore, I am certain that once these course ways are clean and clear, they will do their part as well.

Old and abandon vehicles mentioned by my Colleague, Secretary Melville need to be taken out of communities.  The mover of the Motion   would have spoken to that as well.  The Division is working tirelessly (the Division of Health and Social Services) to treat with derelict vehicles in communities and we are partnering with the Division in that regard.

Mr. Presiding Officer, potholes and clogged drains in areas not frequented by vehicular traffic is another simple but important aspect that we need to look at. 

Mr. Presiding Officer, the frequent removing of garbage and clearing of illegal dumping sites is also critical in the fight to the proliferation of breeding sites and mosquito such as the Aedes Aegypti mosquito.

2.44 P.M

Mr. Presiding Officer, as we prepare for another exciting Heritage Production, I believe the message of “Don’t Get Bite” is perhaps more critical as we will be traversing communities for the Signature Indigenous Festival on this island.  I am, therefore, urging all communities to get on board in the clean-up of their communities.  Clear standing water and old debris and I look forward to the repellant stations being used as part of the festival.

Mr. Presiding Officer, in the old days, we swept our yards, even if they were dirty yards we swept them as a symbol of our commitment to good hygiene and cleanliness.  Let us reflect and continue to act in accordance with our mantra to being clean, green, safe and serene.

In closing, I wish to go back to a conversation on Zika.  The Executive Council, many times we take hard decisions, week after week.  Like the Health Sector, sometimes we don’t hear about the good decisions we take but we hear about the perceived poor decisions that we may have made.  But whilst there are many theories out there about the Zika and the malformations during pregnancy that end up in microcephaly areas and  that is seen in the areas in Brazil, people question why was Zika around for so many years in Africa and they never saw any of these outcomes.

One of the theories put forward is the fact that bio-engineered approaches have been taken to get rid of the Aedes Aegypti mosquito and that perhaps has made the mosquito a greater threat to pregnant women.  While the jury continues to deliberate on that issue, I wish to commend my colleagues for taking a decision over a year ago, not to accept a proposal that was being considered in Trinidad for use of bio-engineering techniques to eradicate mosquitoes.  

I really want to commend my colleagues for the research that we continue to do in making the decisions at that table week after week.  Give yourselves a little pound on the table colleagues!  [Desk thumping]

Mr. Presiding Officer, sometimes the basic strategies of cleanliness, good hygiene, moderation and care, go a longer way in preventing us from the ills that are looming.

Let us again, commend the Assemblyman for Black Rock/Whim/Spring Garden and her Division of Health and Social Services, her staff, all other Divisions, all other residents across this island who have come on board to collaborate in this fight and thank them for all that they are doing as part of this integrated approach to “Don’t Get Bite.”

Mr. Presiding Officer, I fully support this Motion.  [Desk thumping]

2.44 P.M

All Divisions have a role to play:

  • Non-Governmental Organizations;

  • Faith Based Organizations;

  • Community groups and organizations;

  • Cultural bodies;

  • Every single family;

  • Every single home;

  • Every single individual

All have a role to play in ensuring that we can overcome this threat.  There are those who need to carry the message and all of us need to ensure that we “Don’t Get Bite”.  

I was therefore heartened by the recent turn out by the “Tobago House of Assembly Face to Face Meetings”, where the Public Health Unit was actively giving presentations on the current threats of the mosquito and how to prevent getting bitten.  It is quite a comprehensive presentation that they do and I think it was well received by members of the public who attended and they even asked for further information which they received.  Therefore, on behalf of Health, I want to urge for greater collaboration across the board wherever we have group meetings to ensure that they are included, so that we can make the information more widespread. 


So perhaps, Mr. Presiding Officer, in your Legislative Outreach Meetings in the community, you too can include Health as part of that caravan to assist in carrying the message.  Let me commend you for the initiative and also go further, in offering the services of Community Development and Culture and perhaps all of the representatives in assisting you in mobilizing the people to come out and hear more about the legislative process that we have in our midst.

As we all enter leaner times given the recession, we all have to find ways of greater collaborative efforts in what we do to maximize the limited resources that we all have.  That is why, the Division of Community Development and Culture has wholeheartedly endorsed the project and the activities being done in the Health Sector by providing our Field Officers who are involved in the dissemination of the information through pamphlets, and mobilization of community leaders, to ensure that they understand the message and that they could take it forward in their communities. 

We also are making every effort to have our community centres available and at a standard where meetings can be readily held.    I certainly hope that the Representative for Moriah and the people of Moriah appreciated the recently installed ceiling over the last two (2) weeks at the successful meeting that they just had. [Desk thumping]  

As part of the integrated plan, though all my colleagues cannot speak today, I know that they are all on board and everyone is prepared to play their part.  

The communities and residents have also come out to participate in the removal of debris and partnering with the Public Health field workers in cleaning up their communities.   As simple as it seems, Mr. Presiding Officer, cleaning up is one of the most effective ways to control the vector.  That is something we can be all involved in.  

I wish at this point to thank all those who are part of the health sector, front and centre in this fight.  It is unfortunate that many times, we do not recognize the time and the efforts that are being made and the good outcomes but sometimes we only tend to hear about the bad.  I just really want to commend them for their time and effort on this initiative, it is a lot of work.  If you listen well to all the plans that are being done on this initiative, it is a lot of work and they must be commended for their work. [Desk thumping]  Of course, there is always room for improvement, but again, I say thank you to them. 

As we all heard as well, there are international standards for controlling the vector at five (5) and Tobago is not just at four (4), it is not just at three (3), we are at two point five (2.5) which is 50% over the standards of expectations.  It is through their efforts in launching the Campaign before the Carnival that allowed us to have a safe Carnival where all infectious diseases are concerned.  Again, a lot of work was done.  

Let me take the opportunity to congratulate all those who were involved in the Carnival season this year.  For the success that it has been.   I maintain that Carnival cannot be just viewed as a piece, but has to be judged as a whole product.  As a whole, there were significant improvement in the quality of the mas, the standard of the calypsos and certainly the record in the number of pans participating and qualifying to Trinidad.

I must commend the Secretary of Tourism for the tourist ship arrival that  landed on Carnival Tuesday and by extension, I must thank my staff led by Administrator Toppin and Ms. Glenda Roselain for providing and entertaining and engaging mini carnival on the Tuesday morning of arrival -  one that ended in an afternoon of splendor.  Therefore, we should all feel good as Tobagonians about the Carnival as we continue to shape the product.  It is in this context that this the Division would be hosting a public consultation on how do we improve our festivals on the island?  How do we improve the product?  Therefore, this must take into consideration the threats that seem to come about just the time that we have Carnival every year:  The threats from the environment, of course the mosquitoes, the H1N1, HIV and otherwise.  We hope that the Health Sector will see themselves as critical to this conversation and send persons to attend at that time.  I want to as we are talking about Carnival, I want to again commend the Division of Health and Social Services for their sweeping win at the Inter-Department Show. [Desk thumping]  Just as all twelve (12) they have swept all two (2), please commend them. [Laughter] 

The reason I want to emphasize this, is because the calypso that won did not go along the lines of the bordering jocular in any way, but was a powerful message for HIV/AIDS.  It was amazing that if you were there to hear the crowd participate in singing the calypso, which was a calypso about, “Prevention”.  Therefore, I believe that there is a roll for more of our calypsonians to lift the content of their calypsos to help us shape society once more, having healthy minds and healthy bodies.  That winning calypso also sent a message, that the people, members of the public, they are prepared to accept those messages in that form.  So, I therefore want to urge our persons within that area, those who sing for us to come up with more content that helps us to shape our healthy minds, healthy bodies and healthy communities and families.

Mr. Presiding Officer, I thank you for allowing me to stand in support of my colleague in the Division of Health and Social Services in regards the strategies and the integrative approach towards dealing with the Aedes Aegypti mosquito the current threats to our environment.

I must commend the previous speakers, the Secretary of the Division of Infrastructure and Public Utilities but moreso, I want to commend Assemblyman, Representative for Black Rock/Whim/Spring Garden for her eloquence and comprehensive overview of the dreaded diseases facing us and the processes and systems instituted to control the vector that threatens our existence as human beings and as people of the world.

Diseases are part and parcel of life.  As you heard Secretary Melville said and he quoted from someone that he said that “outbreaks are inevitable but epidemics are optional” and that is so true.  But diseases are not only limited to the human body in fact, the word itself, “disease” will tell you that any situation that causes a dysfunction to the order of the day of what society considers natural and normal is disease.  And therefore, these days we can say, we have a lot of diseases around coming at us.   It is:

  • Zika;

  • Chikungunya;

  • Dengue;

  • H1N1;

  • HIV AIDs.

All of them.

We have diseases of the economy called “Recession” and from time to time, we even have diseases of “Politics.”

As I say that, let me take the opportunity to wish our brothers and sisters in Jamaica a safe election day today and may God provide for the Leader who is supposed to be in place to emerge in a safe way.  I know that they have had some violence but I wish them all the best.

But the formula for dealing with diseases is the same in every case.  “Prevention is better than cure.”   In the case of cures, it becomes a survival of the fittest either the host survives or the disease dies with the host.  The diseases in general can be debilitated and a lot of resources can be exhausted in either bringing relief to the affected or developing a cure.

We must recognize that it is more costly to families involved, the communities and even the health sector that becomes overwhelmed from the amount of human resource and financial resources to continue the fight for lives when indeed we are taking it from a curative point of view.

The positive side though is that diseases, if and when severe enough lead to innovation and collaboration in finding solutions.   That is why in the medical fraternity we often say, “Prevention is better than cure.”  It is proven that in most cases if not all, preventative measures are far less costly to a system and therefore should be the first line of attack.

I must therefore, reiterate my commendation for the Division of Health and Social Services for their approach – the integrated management approach that the health sector has taken with regard to the threat of the Aedes Aegypti mosquito. 

Where all others are focusing on Zika across the region, they are focusing on the cause which has the potential for many more diseases, many more threats to life that the Dengue many more debilitating impact like the Chikungunya and therefore, we are focusing on controlling the vector, the Aedes Aegypti mosquito.

That is why when I listen to my colleagues and all the areas that are being, all the efforts that are being made in all of the areas I am really heartened and feel good that we have a plan and a plan that can work.  In the preventative approach taken by them, it is calling for all hands to be on deck

Secretary of the Division of Community Development and Culture.  [Desk thumping]

2.24 P.M

As I said, we know the challenges are there, we have a situation where the main source serving south-west Tobago is operating at about fifteen percent (15%) capacity.  That is a very serious situation, and Water and Sewerage Authority (WASA) is making efforts to be able to supplement the situation but some of it are going to take a bit of time to happen and therefore, each of us in whatever possible way we can we have to conserve water.  This is one situation I think would be one of the most challenging ever facing us where water availability is concerned and we in the Division want to take every opportunity to warn the population - let us conserve water.  Let us in our own way see how best we can optimize the use of the little that we have.

Mr. Presiding Officer, we come back to the Motion, it is one that I am very pleased to support because in the circumstances, the approach to treating with Aedes Aegypti mosquito is really an approach that we have not taken in treating with other situations like that including some of our other problems that we have whether we talk about rodents and things like that.  It is really about us in society seeking to maintain basic minimum standards where cleanliness is concerned, where sanitation is concerned and if we do that then we can keep the population levels of dangerous organism like the Aedes Aegypti at a level where as I said, the gentleman would have said, that outbreaks happens, they are inevitable but epidemics we can prevent them.   So therefore, this cannot be just about the fact that Zika is the current disease of the day if you want to call it that because we observe that in these times for the last many years, almost every year, some virus or the other take center stage and everybody becomes very concerned about but as I said, it has to be an approach that is not just limited to this but it is an approach that we continue that we have to practice throughout because of course, we in the Tobago House of Assembly has been living with the mantra of clean, green, safe and serene for a very long time and you cannot ask to be more clean or to be more green in terms of the approach that we are adopting to manage the Aedes Aegypti mosquito.

As I said, my Division is squarely on board.  We have made ourselves available to collaborate with the Division of Health and Social Services.  We are working in our own way inhouse to be a part of the programme that we have an environment that is not conducive to the breeding of the Aedes Aegypti and in that way as I said, this is a Motion that any reasonable person would want to support.

Mr. Presiding Officer, I want to thank you for the opportunity that I had to speak and as I say it again, I want to be able to reiterate that I am a supporter of the Motion and thanks for the opportunity.  [Desk thumping]

2.14 P.M

Today, we know we continue to get outbreaks of Dengue and so on, from time to time.  I think there is a doctor, his name is Larry Brilliant would have said that: “You can get outbreaks - outbreaks of disease are inevitable, but epidemics are optional”.  It means therefore, that we have to continue to do the particular job at hand. 


      The approach to controlling the Aedes Aegypti mosquito is what is critical.  As Secretary of Infrastructure and Public Utilities, we recognized that we have a role to play given that we have certain responsibilities where the island is concerned.  

       Again, I want to commend the Secretary, for the fact that she has reached out to the Division in a collaborative manner, so that we can play our role in the fight against the control of the Aedes Aegypti mosquito. 

      The Division has responsibilities for sanitation, along the roadsides throughout the island and it has responsibilities for drainage. In terms of managing a lot of the water courses and so on, and therefore, the Division can play a critical role in this fight against the Aedes Aegypti mosquito.  We have to recognize that these diseases and especially now that one is prominently in the News, have impacts for an island like Tobago where we have an economy where our main part of our private sector depends upon tourism.   Certainly, illnesses impacts upon the willingness of persons to visit that destination, so that there are health issues and there are economic issues involved.  Therefore, given our responsibility as a Division, we have been seeking to ramp up our activities to treat with reducing the opportunities for breathing of the Aedes Aegypti mosquito.  

      As I said, we have the responsibility for drainage, we have responsibility for sanitation.  So that if we maintain the verges of the roadway, and we remove any debris and so on that is there, any kind of container that can serve as a breathing ground, if we do our job regularly and treat with the vegetation and so on, that helps.  Also, if we work in terms of the drainage, try in keeping our water courses clear so that we do not have water settling and creating stagnant situations that would create breathing opportunities for the Aedes Aegypti mosquito.  So that the Division is ramping up its activities.  We are seeking to ensure that where we have issues with drains that needs to be rehabilitated.  For example, over the years, infrastructure

last for a particular period of time, over the years, drains failed and so on, some drains cave in, and sometimes in those kinds of situations, we have pooling of water and pooling and so on so we are trying to see how best we can treat with those situations.

     We also as a Division have responsibility for the URP (Unemployment Relief Programme) which has a significant environmental programme including the cleaning of beaches and so on.  We would make our workers in that Programme, our environmental workers not just heightening the activities in those areas, but we can make them available.  For example in terms of the clearing of empty lots or even in terms of assisting senior citizens or persons differently abled who may have challenges in terms of treating challenges in terms of treating with managing their surroundings, managing their environment.  So the Division is willing to play its role.


      As a Division, we have the responsibility for a number of public buildings, and the Division in recent days would have taken note of that.  We would have had our Health and Safety people going out to inspect the different buildings that the Division utilizes around the island, ensuring that corrective measures are put in place where there are issues with any of these sites.  Of course, the Division is seeking to provide as much information as possible to its staff and members of the public that interacts with us in terms of the Aedes Aegypti control.   

Of course, the Secretary would have noted and we all have to take on board the fact that what is required is really an effort from all of us. All of us have a role to play, whether that role that we play as individuals in ensuring that what takes place at our homes and our residence and so on, that we do not create a breathing ground for the Aedes Aegypti mosquito. But it also creates situations where we can as people have greater collaboration. It is not just each individual by themselves.

We mentioned the issue of empty lots. It means that those of us who own properties that we have not built on, or we are not ready to build, we need to take and give some consideration for the people who lives there, that we keep that property in a state where it does not create breathing situation for the mosquitoes and therefore pose a danger to the neighbours there. Sometimes you have situations that we encounter very much as a Division, where there is a natural kind of water course that passes through many different properties, and sometimes the drainage situation there may require that we have to do a drain. Sometimes you know you have situations where people do not cooperate, one or two persons may decide that that they do not want that drain passing by their property, and you create a challenge there for all the persons that lives there. We have to come more mature as a population. We have to take those kinds of things on board, we have to collaborate, we have to cooperate. If you own an old car, and you no longer have use for it and so on, before public health has to come around, we must be responsible, we need to get that move to where it is supposed to go.  

      As I said, the Division of Health is doing an excellent job in terms of providing Waste Disposal Services to the population and we have to ensure that we use those services correctly.   Too many of us sometimes take a short cut or take the easy way out and rather than utilize the services as they should, our intention is just to get the garbage out of our house and we do not care where it goes, as long as it is not at our home.  We have to be careful about our disposal of food containers, beverage containers, all of those that provide opportunities.  So it is really about the population getting on board and each of us doing the best that we can.


       We have situations for example, in terms we are now in the dry season which may be one of the driest of dry season.  Of course, I know many homeowners and house holders would be concern now about storage of water.  But of course in so doing, we have to be very careful in this particular situation because we know that depending on how the water is stored and so on, it can again create opportunities for the breathing of the mosquito. Hence we in the Division right now, we are pursuing an initiative  with the Ministry of Public Utilities in Trinidad through their Utilities Assistance Programme where either through the Ministry or as part of the Assembly’s Programme we can provide water tanks to needy households.

So that people would not have to store water in some kinds of the situation that people do.

       As I talk about water while I am on my feet, Mr. Presiding Officer, I would want to take the opportunity to just give a reminder to the population that we are now in trying circumstances where our water supply is concerned.  It is very likely to continue to be so for the months ahead, we have a very challenging dry season.  I want to take every opportunity that I can to ask the citizens of Tobago that we all in our own way seek to conserve water where possible. 

Thank you, Mr. Presiding Officer, for recognizing me and giving me the opportunity to contribute to this Motion.  Let me first of all, take the opportunity to congratulate the mover of the Motion, the Secretary of Health and Social Services, Assemblyman for Whim/Black Rock/Spring Garden, for her very detailed and eloquent presentation.  The Motion is timely.   It is of course, it is occurring at a time when the whole region and the significant part of the world is expressing concerns about the Zika Virus but as the Secretary would have noted with the issue here really, has to do with the Aedes Aegypti mosquito because Zika is not the only issue where that mosquito is concerned but even more deadly diseases like Dengue and more deadly diseases and illnesses like Chikungunya and so on.  

     I want to take the opportunity here to publicly congratulate the Division of Health and Social Services, the Secretary and her staff especially those persons who operate as what you call “perifocals” and so on.  I think they do a very wonderful job.  [Desk thumping] When the Secretary was noting about the level of the mosquito population, the Aedes Aegypti mosquito has fallen over the years certainly they would have to play a key role in that.  I mean, I saw them coming around very regularly to our residence and they are very thorough and they do a very good job. 

   I think the Division can also be commended for the work that they are doing in waste disposal because again, I think the environment is critical to the management of the Aedes Aegypti mosquito.

This Motion while one may link it to what is happening now, I think it is really about the job that the Division has been doing and the job that we need to continue doing in the weeks and the months ahead and so on because today, we know we have, we continue to get outbreaks of Dengue and so on, from time to time.   There is a Doctor, I think his name is Larry Brilliant would have said that, “You know you can get outbreaks” – outbreaks of disease are inevitable but epidemics are optional.”

Secretary of the Division of Infrastructure and Public Utilities. [Desk thumping]

2.04 P.M

Mr. Presiding Officer, Facebook and Division of Health and Social Services (DHSS) Website are being used to answer questions from Members of the public.

The Chief Medical Officer of Health (CMOH) has attended the ongoing THA (Tobago House of Assembly) District meetings to do presentation on Zika and field questions from the Members of the public.

Mr. Presiding Officer, Hotline and E-mail address is available for the public to report incidence such as abandon lots and so on.

Community-Based Environmental Protection and Enhancement Programme (CEPEP) had been given the mandate to cut the grass in and clear all empty lots.  With reference to the above and in accordance with our recommendations, I must say that we have followed the World Health  Organization (WHO), the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA), the University of the West Indies (UWI) and the Ministry of Health in giving support to our programmes here in Tobago. 

We are updating the medical and nursing staff of the Tobago Regional Health Authority (TRHA) on case definitions, treatments, investigations and reporting to the Office of the CMOH as related to the Zika Virus infection.  We are strengthening the surveillance and communicable disease reporting from health facilities throughout Tobago and we are moving forward to ensure that we control the mosquito on the island. 

Other actions that would be implemented include the continued training of Members of 211 on Zika so that the public can call their hotline for information.

Symposium on H1N1 and Zika to be held at the Shaw Park Cultural Complex in collaboration with the University of the West Indies on Tuesday 15th March which will include the panel of experts who presented in Trinidad.  This will be opened to all Members of the public.

Mr. Presiding Officer, posters and banners are to be placed in malls, banks, gas stations and so on.   Meetings will be continued with the principals in secondary schools to lecture on Zika.  That will be done on Tuesday 1st March 2016 and subsequent meetings will continue for principals and teachers.  

Mr. Presiding Officer, the actions to be done for Zika Preparedness and Response Activities - we spoke of the bed nets that have been sourced to give all pregnant women who attend the antenatal clinics and to elderly persons in Homes for the Aged.  

Advertisements have been developed for Radio of course.   All of these would require more funding.  Health advisories have been developed for the newspaper and continue to have the information printed out there and so, the overall strategy is to: 

  • Educate all Members of the public on Zika; and

  • How to prevent the spread of Zika by eliminating mosquito breeding sites in and around their homes and by preventing mosquito bites;

  • To increase social awareness to the public and to make them aware of their role in cleaning up their premises in order to eliminate the breeding sites for Aedes Aegypti mosquito;

  • To support Members of the Public by helping them identify breeding sites in and around their premises;

  • To strengthen already ongoing Public Health actions to control mosquito population levels;

  • To protect populations that may have adverse outcome from Zika infection such as pregnant women;

  • To ensure that questions and concerns from Members of the public are correctly addressed in a timely manner as part of our risk communication; and

  •  To strengthen surveillance activities so that up to date information is readily available.

     Mr. Presiding Officer, again, we advise our public, “Don’t Get Bite.” Clean your surroundings; remove the source of mosquito breeding; keep in touch with your healthcare professionals; keep in touch with your healthcare facilitators and continue to ask questions when in doubt.

      Mr. Presiding Officer, I beg to move this significant Motion.

      Thank you. [Desk thumping]

      Question proposed.

  • Office of the County Medical Officer of Health - 639-3751/635-1567;

  •  The Public Health Services Department - 639-1433 or 211.  

Mr. Presiding Officer, the fact that there is no specific treatment, vaccine or preventive drug, Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA)  has underscored the necessity to avoid contact with mosquitoes.  Mr. Presiding Officer, actions in response to the threat of Zika that we have already taken include: 

  • Education of Medical Personnel on the clinical symptoms;

  • Case definition;

  • Management and reporting of suspective cases of Zika;

  • The Tobago Public Health Emergency Response Team

continue to hold meetings with relevant stakeholders including the President of the Tobago Hotels Association who was given information for members of his Association: 

  • Members of the Hotel Association 

and they were also asked to provide chemicals so Public Health can spray their establishments in an effort to help bolster confidence in our tourism product. 


Public Health continues:

  • The White Waste Removal Drive. 

As you recalled, during the Christmas season up to the end of December, and they will start again in March to remove white waste source for mosquito breathing.  

  •   Public Health has been conducting the shredding of tyres on Monday, Tuesday and yesterday of this week which contributed to the removal of tyres from around homes which can collect water and serve as breathing grounds for mosquitoes.  

  • Public Health has increased indoor residual spraying activities which are proven more effective than fogging to control mosquito population levels.

Mr. Presiding Officer, we acquired: 

  • Mosquito repellents; 


As you recalled, we did plan to use mosquitoes repellant stations during the Carnival Season, we now have repellants that we can distribute to vulnerable populations.  

We have placed: 

  • “Banners” at the airport and seaport, as part of our “Don’t Get Bite” campaign to inform persons how to get rid of mosquito breathing sites in and around their homes and protect themselves from being bitten;

Mr. Presiding Officer, 

  • We have printed copy books to distribute at all schools which show how to identify potential mosquito breathing sites and how to prevent getting bitten; 

  • Periphocal workers are being trained to deliver messages to the community and the recruitment process has started for Health Education Facilitators who will go out into the community to help disseminate messages; 

Nonetheless, we have partnered with Organizations/Divisions like Community Development, the communication team in all division; we have met with the media, all to ensure that our door to door information is carried out for the education of our public.

Mr. Presiding Officer, the staff of the Office of the County Medical Officer of Health and Tobago regional Health Authority (TRHA) attended National Symposium on H1N1 and Zika on Sunday 31st, January, 2016 at the University of the West Indies in Trinidad as part of our partnership with UWI.  Presentations were made by the County Medical Officer of Health and experts from Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), CARPHA and UWI, and all persons who attended will be assisting in training of other medical staff who were unable to attend. 

Our Communications Department has met as I said earlier with Communication Officers of all of the other Divisions to devise plans and how to disseminate information on Zika to all of their stakeholders. This has started for example: the Electronic Board at the Victor E. Bruce Building displaying messages from the “Don’t Get Bite” Campaign.


Regulations 27, as amended by the law Revision Act Chapter 3:03 of the Public Health Ordinance Chapter 12 No. 4. That Public Health Ordinance is a 1979 Ordinance which provides for a penalty of a mere five hundred dollars ($500) with respect to people who fail to take precautionary measures with respect to the vector, then, as associated with Yellow Fever only, the Aedes Aegypti mosquito. So, the Ministry of the Attorney General is actively reviewing the laws as it relates to the regulations, the Public Health Ordinance Regulations and we must participate in this endeavour.

    Mr. Presiding Officer, persons seeking details about Zika, its signs and symptoms, its prevention and treatment, can consult with nurses and Doctors at their Health care facility to ensure that they receive the appropriate information. The Office of the County Medical Officer of Health and the wider Public Health Services Department are also available to provide any further information. The contact numbers are as follows:

1:54 PM

However, we need more funding to ramp up our media presence.  This is significant.  We have to be at the face of our people all the time, to be there with them, to inform them and to remind them.

Mr. Presiding Officer, we have ramped up our surveillance.  Our Integrated Vector Management is ongoing.  This has been an ongoing exercise since 2014. So, this vigilance has decreased our index, that is the number of mosquitoes on the island, to under the international standard of five (5) to two point five (2.5) in some instance, two point eight (2.8) in other cases and the highest in the Scarborough and environs area with an index of about four point three (4.3).  Here, I must commend the Administrator, the Public Health Sector, members of staff in the Division of Health and Social Services, including Community-Based Environmental Protection and Enhancement Programme (CEPEP), this organization that has helped tremendously with the Public Health Sector to reduce the index of mosquitoes on the island.

Mr. Presiding Officer, I must say that many people are beginning to heed the warnings and they are turning over their plants, saucers and they are cleaning.  Nonetheless, I am seeking support of this House for the Assembly to join with the Central Government to currently review the 

1:44 PM

This has caused us to increase our barrel covers and latrine project in the Public Health Sector and strengthen our ties with stakeholders such as the Ministry of Health, the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) and the University of the West Indies.

Mr. Presiding Officer, flight range studies suggest that most female Aedes Aegypti mosquito may spend their lifetime in or around the houses where they emerge as adults and they usually fly an average of four hundred (400) metres.  So this means that people rather than mosquitoes rapidly move the virus within and between communities and places.

Mr. Presiding Officer, the Minister of Health has stated that Trinidad and Tobago has reported its first case of the Zika Virus.   While there is no confirmed case of Zika in Tobago, we must know that this may just be a matter of time.

Mr. Presiding Officer, this is a new disease and it is not clear just how it will manifest in our population here in Tobago.  According to World Health Organization (WHO), the real problem with the Zika Virus is who it affects and what consequential damage would occur as a result of somebody becoming infected with it.  So, from the perspective of the health of the population the most important people who would stand the consequential problem are the pregnant patients.

In Tobago, we have an annual birth rate of approximately a thousand patients delivering live babies.   

Mr. Presiding Officer, at this moment, we have approximately a thousand pregnant patients in Tobago who will be extremely worried now that the Zika Virus is in Trinidad.

Mr. Presiding Officer, as the CARPHA ramps up its response to the Zika Virus in the region, we are strongly advising the adoption of personal detective measures to avoid mosquito bites and the reduction of mosquito breading grounds here in Tobago.

      Mr. Presiding Officer, we have been meeting with the Tobago Public Health Emergency Response Team to reinforce preventive options and response and I must note that this started since January 2014.  We developed the protocols to treat with the impending arrival of Zika, of course, in terms of Chikungunya and Dengue because all of these vector borne diseases are carried by the Aedes Aegypti mosquito.  So, out of those protocols is the establishment of the Rapid Response Team which we trialed flawlessly on February 15th, 2016 at the Darrel Spring and Environs Community.

Mr. Presiding Officer, the Zika alert call to action propelled us to develop the protocols to ease fear, tension and to focus resources and inject a sense of urgency into the fight against Zika and other vector borne diseases here in Tobago.  We developed:

  • The Epidemiological Surveillance Plan; 

  • The Operations Plan; and 

  • The Rapid Response Protocols.  

We are partnering with everyone:

  • The Ministry of Health;

  • Caribbean Public Health Agency; 

  • The University of the West Indies;

As I said before:

  • World Health Organization; and

  • Every Division in the Tobago House of Assembly.

The Division reported its plan of action to the Executive Council for

approval and we operationalized and action the plans.

Mr. Presiding Officer, the issue of Mosquito Vector Control therefore, plays as a very significant and a very extremely important role and so it is the Assembly’s responsibility to deal with threats and to engage in enabling an environment which can deal with efficient approaches.  It is the primary responsibility and obligation of the Secretary of Health to take the information to the people of Tobago.  But it is not just the responsibility of the Assembly, all of us have a responsibility to reduce and eliminate breeding sites here in Tobago: 

  • Our homes;

  • Our health facilities;

  • The hotels;

  • The Tourism Facilities;

  • Our Ports of entry; and

  • Schools.

Are among the key sites for ensuring mosquito control.

Mr. Presiding Officer, the CARPHA has supported its Member state by enhancing regional surveillance and the agencies capacity for Vector Borne diseases, testing by monitoring regional and global developments, partnering with regional and international stakeholders and providing updates for agencies of health and other key stakeholders.   

And so, Mr. Presiding Officer, the only Laboratory Test for Zika in the Caribbean is CARPHA.  The Caribbean Public Health Agency is the single regional Public Health Agency for the Caribbean.  It was legally established in July 2011 by an inter-governmental agreement signed by the Caribbean Community Member States and begun operations in January of 2013.

Mr. Presiding Officer, the Agency is the Caribbean Region’s collective response to strengthening and reorienting our health system approach so that we are equipped to address the changing nature of Public Health challenges.  The approach is people centered and evidence based.

Mr. Presiding Officer, what are the protocols we are using to protect our citizens here in Tobago?  Public Education as part of the integrated management system.  It is a whole of the Assembly and whole of society approach and that is what we have started to do.  We have started in the schools, in the communities and in the health facilities.

Our message is, “Don’t Get Bite.”  You know a number of people said, “Well the grammer ain’t right.”  I said, “The message is right, ‘Don’t Get Bite,’ keep your surroundings clean.”

Mr. Presiding Officer, the protocols we have established are clear.  The protocols are based on WHO and based on the integrated management system.  The WHO protocol spoke about source reduction, that if you are pregnant or thinking about being pregnant, use light, long clothing, cover your skin as much as possible and use insect repellant on your exposed hands and cover yourselves.  We are giving out free nets at all of our antenatal clinics.  Of course, nothing is free, the Assembly is paying for it and that is a significant move to do all that we can to protect those populations.

Mr. Presiding Officer, we continue to give this House the assurance that no stone is being left unturned to protect all of our people against Zika and other vector borne diseases.  We urge all of our citizens to follow the WHO protocols to treat with Zika.

Mr. Presiding Officer, the integrated management system has different components.  The ongoing components which are health education and social communications, we are doing that.


Thank you, Mr. Presiding Officer. I stand to move a Motion standing in my name. The Motion reads as follows:-

“WHEREAS the Aedes Aegypti mosquito is a threat to the Caribbean region, as it is the main vector that transmits the viruses that cause Dengue, Chikungunya and Zika;

AND WHEREAS the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) has supported its member states by enhancing regional surveillance and the agency’s capacity for vector borne diseases testing, by monitoring regional and global developments, partnering with regional and international stakeholders, and providing updates for agencies of health and other key stakeholders;

AND WHEREAS the basic approach to vector borne diseases is by controlling the proliferation of the vector, in this case, the Aedes Aegypti mosquito;

AND WHEREAS for years, the Tobago House of Assembly has implemented numerous strategies which include controlling and monitoring of the vector, building public awareness for prevention, early detection and support for victims;

BE IT RESOLVED that this House support the strong measures and strategies instituted by the Assembly to control the mosquito population on the island;

AND BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this robust integrative management approach be sustained and intensified, with the collaboration of all Divisions of the Tobago House of Assembly and other Government Agencies;

AND BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that while the Tobago House of Assembly continues to fulfil its mandate in response to this threat, that this House urge all residents to adopt appropriate measures to control the mosquito population, to prevent mosquito bites in at-risk individuals, especially pregnant women, and to collaborate in minimizing the potential dangers associated with this threat.”

Mr. Presiding Officer, the Aedes Aegypti mosquito is the main vector that transmits the virus that causes Dengue, Yellow Fever, Chikungunya and now Zika. The viruses are passed on to humans through the bites of an infected female Aegypti mosquito which mainly acquires the virus while feeding on the blood of an infected person.

Mr. Presiding Officer, to successfully control the Aedes Aegypti mosquito; one must first determine the factors that are contributing to its  successful breathing. So the female mosquito, Mr. Presiding Officer, is known to deposit its eggs in relatively clean, stagnant water. The Larvae and Pupa also inhabit the water in which the eggs are deposited.

Mr. Presiding Officer, research done in Trinidad, by D.A. Fox and D. D. Tradee and Published in the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene in 1997, has identified: 

  • Outdoor drums; 

  • Water storage tanks; 

  • Buckets; 

  • Laundry tubs; 

  • Discarded tyres;  

  • Drink bottles; and 

  • Cans

as the most breathing areas for the Aedes Aegypti mosquito.

So, Mr. Presiding Officer,

  • Outdoor drums;

  • Tubs;

  • Buckets; and

  • Small containers

were found to account for over ninety percent (90%) of all Aedes Aegypti Pupa. It is reasonable to assume that these research results can be applied to the Tobago scenario because of the similar climate and culture of the people.

Mr. Presiding Officer, while there is no case of Zika in Tobago, the Division of Health and Social Services is in a heightened state of preparedness as we intensify an island wide Mosquito Control Campaign to forestall the onset of the Zika Virus.

Mr. Presiding Officer, we now see the Aedes Aegypti mosquito evolving. Its genetic composition has been mutating.  We now see the information from Puerto Rico, states that the Aedes Aegypti is breathing in sewer water.  Now traditionally, it was clear stagnant water, now it is breathing in sewer water.  

40 th Plenary Sitting Tobago House of Assembly 2013 - 2017 Session


28 January 2016
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