Population at risk for COVID

Almost half of Trinidad and Tobago’s population could be at big risk for contracting COVID-19.

This is because half of the population has diabetes and hypertension and these people and those in 10 other categories—including the elderly—are at high risk for the virus and must strictly practice social distancing and other measures.

Figures on diabetes and hypertension levels and other categories of Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDS) were given at yesterday’s daily media briefing by Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh and Dr Neil Bhagwandass (nephrologist/acting head of medicine at San Fernando General Hospital). Both warned about the impact and increased COVID risk for people with NCDs. Bhagwandass listed 12 categories of people at high risk, noting there are many people in the various categories in T&T.

“They’re at high risk for ravages of COVID-19. Social mitigation practices, including isolation, distancing et cetera, must be stressed to prevent severe outbreaks among the NCD population. The virus is more dangerous to such people and it’s particularly important for the elderly for instance to isolate themselves. Stay at home,” Bhagwandass said.

He said hypertension, which is very common among the population, is cited as a major risk factor for complications if COVID-19 arises.

Diabetes, which compromises the immune system, is also in a category for high risk of complications with the virus and he said any stress on diabetic systems will push a person’s diabetes out of control. Diabetics must ensure the use of medications to prevent elevated sugar levels and monitor blood sugar every four hours, also contacting doctors, he said.

Deyalsingh said ministry estimates are that 0.5 per cent of the population—266,000 people —have diabetes. He said that was the known figure, “but this is an underestimation as many have it and don’t know.”

Known estimates for hypertension are that 23.6 per cent of the population—341,000—have that disease.

Deaths attributed to diabetes in T&T are 14 per cent, those for cardio-vascular issues10 per cent and those due to heart conditions are 25 per cent, he explained. Cancer-related deaths are at 13 per cent.

Former health minister Dr Fuad Khan had launched a drive to get healthy and reduce NCDS. Deyalsingh said the Patrick Manning administration had also signed conventions on NCDS and the current Government, since 2015, had been sounding the alarm also. He said the banning of soft drinks in schools resulted in a 25 per cent reduction in consumption at schools.


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