TOXIC SCARE AT PM’S OFFICE

Two were hospitalised and are still patients at the hospital.

The incident occurred after the building was sprayed to get rid of mosquitoes.

Health Minister Dr Fuad Khan told the Express 35 employees were treated at the Port of Spain General Hospital and two were kept for further examinations. These two employees, he said, may have had respiratory problems and ailments such as asthma could have flared up.

Manager, Communications and Media Relations at the Office of the Prime Minister, Paige De Leon, yesterday told the Express all members of staff were evacuated around 10 a.m. after fire officials were called in to test the toxic levels of the environment.

Finance Minister Larry Howai and officials from the Finance Ministry, who were present at the Prime Minister’s office to hold budget consultations with stakeholders, were also evacuated.

The meeting was moved to the Finance Ministry, Eric Williams Financial Complex, Port of Spain.

De Leon explained that a private company was hired to spray the premises for mosquitoes on Tuesday evening and the company had indicated that the building would have been cleared for use again after a two-hour period.

However, when the staff reported for work yesterday morning, the scent of the chemicals used was still strong and some staffers reported that they were feeling ill.

The Fire Service was called in and after finding that the toxicity level was too high, ordered an evacuation.

De Leon said by 1 p.m. fire officers advised the office was safe for use, and employees returned to work.

Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar was not present at the time of the evacuation, as she was attending the funeral of former parliamentarian Kelvin Ramnath in Balmain, Central Trinidad.

Questioned on whether there was an outbreak of dengue, given the concerns raised by Chaguanas Mayor Orlando Nagessar of a rise in dengue cases in Central, Khan said there was nothing out of the ordinary. He noted Nagessar’s concerns, saying officials from the Health Ministry and Insect Vector Control Division would visit Central to conduct their own enquiries and make requisite checks.

“I have not heard of any increase in incidents of actual dengue cases being reported… there is no outbreak at this point in time,” said Khan. However, he said every opportunity must be used to urge citizens to be vigilant as prevention was better than cure.

Khan said the rainy season was here and therefore containers must not be left outside to collect water and people should exercise caution and not allow any elements for mosquitoes to breed.

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