PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad – Trinidad and Tobago health authorities on Monday warned of a possible increase in coronavirus (COVID-19) cases here following the Christmas holidays and increased movement of people over the festive period.
Principal Medical Officer- Institutions at the Ministry of Health, Dr. Maryam Abdool-Richards, told the weekly news conference here that In addition to increased movement, there is generally a larger demand across the healthcare system following the Yuletide season.
“This coincides with the 14-to-21-day period from the start of increased movement for the Christmas festivities. And yes, we appreciate that some of you were fully vaccinated but there was increased movement that coincides and correlates with the Christmas season.”
Latest figures released by the Ministry of Health show that since March 2020, Trinidad and Tobago has recorded 2,914 deaths and 92, 659 positive infections from the virus.
Dr. Abdool-Richards urged people who experience symptoms to seek medical attention early and take up the offer of vaccination.
“We anticipate that there will be an increased number of cases and we humbly request and implore you to please seek medical attention early on in the course of whatever symptoms you may have. This is the only way forward and this will give you a chance and it will also reduce the demand on the ICU and HDU (High Dependent Unit) level care beds and resources. We also predict an increased demand for care across the system based on the increases we tend to notice after the Christmas and New Year period,” she said.
She told reporters that the demand for ICU and ICU treatment across the parallel healthcare system and Accident and Emergency (A&E) departments is rising, with 71 ICU beds operational and 29 at the A&E.
“The trends that I am going to speak about are consistent since October 16. We continue to note a high demand for ICU level beds across our accident and emergency departments and in the hospitals in our parallel healthcare systems.
“As of this morning there are 71 ICU beds that are fully operational in Trinidad and nine in Tobago in the parallel healthcare system and a further 29 in the Accident and Emergency (A&E) departments. This underscores and emphasizes the need for vaccination,” she said.
Dr. Abdool-Richards said some patients contact the ambulance services presenting with ward level symptoms and refuse admissions to the hospitals.
“We continue to see persons presenting with a severely and critically ill state, we continue to see a significant person with risk factors, that is not vaccinated, a person with existing medical conditions such as diabetes, asthma, cancers, hypertension.”
“We continue to see those persons and their relatives contacting the ambulance services and refusing admissions even after our physicians and ambulance team staffed by physicians on the telephone try to convince relatives, these persons often returned two to three days later. We have noted on the initial call they would have been ward level, ill requiring oxygen but not requiring ICY level. It is very concerning for us,” said Dr. Abdool Richards.
Meanwhile, Health Minister, Terrence Deyalsingh, said Trinidad and Tobago looks forward to implementing COVID-19 home test kits. But he said this will need to be facilitated by the private sector but assured the path has been cleared for the kits to be approved by the Ministry.
He said the only criteria for the kits will be that they are registered with the country of manufacture.
“The issue with home test kits is that you get a high degree of false negatives and a false negative is much more dangerous than a false positive and that is why persons with a negative test with a home kit should have it validated by a PCR test,” he said.