As T&T crossed 1,000 confirmed active COVID-19 cases yesterday, the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) says it stands ready to assist the Government with another expansion of its testing capacity.
The Ministry of Health last evening reported that there were 1,059 active cases from an overall 1,252 cases recorded since the virus entered T&T in March.
With 1,177 beds available in the State’s parallel healthcare system dedicated to COVID-19 care, spaces are now running low.
According to the ministry’s media releases yesterday, Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) tests confirmed 153 additional people had contracted the virus yesterday. The 68 additional persons confirmed in the 6 pm update were from nasopharyngeal swabs taken during the period August 8- 24. This was the largest number of confirmed cases reported in one day.
Data shows that the ministry has recorded 971 cases since the August 10 General Election and 1,113 since the second wave began with “Case 139” on July 20. Before the second wave, there was a two and a half month lull in the reporting of confirmed cases.
Up until 6 pm yesterday, the number of samples submitted to the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA), University of the West Indies and other local testing sites were 20,439. Deaths remained at 15 while 178 people previously quarantined have been discharged.
Responding to Guardian Media’s questions at yesterday’s press briefing, PAHO deputy director Dr Sylvain Aldigheri said T&T’s problems are shared by many other countries in the Americas and the Caribbean.
Aldigheri said it was important the Government monitors the epidemiological data to guide its decisions making.
“It is important to monitor epi-data, including laboratory-confirmed cases, reproductive number, number of beds for patients with moderate disease and the number of ICU beds,” Aldigheri said.
“These are the key indicators for adjusting the public health measures in a country as Trinidad & Tobago and moderating the offer of health services. It should include, also, the management and follow-up of patients in alternate facilities and at home in order to relieve the burden on the health services.”
He added, “We would like to acknowledge the expansion of the public health laboratory network in Trinidad & Tobago, and PAHO, through its country offices, is ready to assist in the further expansion of the laboratory capacity, including at the primary care level.”
As of August 24, there were 12.5 million cases and almost 450,000 COVID-19 deaths in the Americas and Caribbean. The United States, Brazil, Argentina Colombia, Peru and Mexico remain the most affected in the region. Based on the latest COVID-19 statistics in the region, PAHO Director Dr Carissa Etienne said this signals an urgent need to implement public health measures to slow the spread, includes social distancing, wearing masks, sheltering in place and limits on public gatherings.
“In far too many places, there seems to be a real disconnect between the policies that are being implemented and what the epidemiological curves tell us. This is not a good sign. Wishing the virus away will not work. It will only lead to more cases, as we have seen over these past six weeks,” Etienne said.
She said local health authorities’ role is to use epidemiological data to adjust public measures to the country’s reality. She was also concerned about the disproportionate incidence of COVID-19 in younger people. Based on PAHO data, the majority of reported cases are among people between the ages of 20 and 59. Despite this, almost 70 per cent of deaths were people over 60 years old.
“This indicates that younger people are primarily driving the spread of the disease. Many of the young people who contract the virus may not become or require an ICU bed, but they can spread it to others who will,” she said.
She said this was a reminder that defeating COVID-19 was a shared responsibility.
“If you don’t take the right steps to keep yourself safe, then you are putting others in danger.”
Regarding the Caribbean, Etienne said during the early months of the pandemic, countries and territories avoided major outbreaks because of strong political resolve and public health measures. Now that nonessential air travel is resuming across the region, several countries are reporting spikes in their cases. Etienne said tourism and repatriation of citizens are contributing to these increases. She urged that as countries reopen, it is important that everyone follows the public health measures to counter the spread.