Red flags have gone up with a spike in Covid-19 cases and three deaths related the virus in the past 24 hours.
The death toll is now 145.
Speaking at the Health Ministry’s virtual news conference yesterday, Chief Medical Officer (CMO) Dr Roshan Parasram said the data suggests the upsurge is driven by recreational and contact sports, which will now be rolled back and banned until further notice.
He said the rise in numbers also stemmed from what appears to be a breakdown in the adherence to public health guidelines.
Forty-six new cases were recorded in the past 24 hours—a drastic increase compared to the single-digit numbers recorded in January and February.
At present, the CMO said there is an increase in the number of patients hospitalised, with 22 in total.
Some 11 are at the Couva Hospital, two in Intensive Care Unit (ICU); six at the Caura Hospital; and five at the Scarborough hospital.
Parasram noted that on February 21 the regulations were changed to allow for team and recreational sports with a limit of 22 persons.
Pointing out that the virus spreads by droplets, he said this resulted in large numbers of people in close proximity with no wearing of masks or shields. Parasram said roughly 14 to 21 days after the green light was given to play, there was an increase in cases.
He noted that in January and February there were three to four cases per day, and this began to rise in the early part of March two weeks after the regulation change.
He pointed out that the current peak in numbers are similar to what was recorded months ago, in August 2020. The general election was held that month.
“It means we are beginning to upsurge again, and we want to stop that peak going all the way up again like we saw in August and September 2020,” he added.
Parasram said the bulk of the cases are in the 25-to-59 age group.
He said two weeks ago the majority of the cases were in the Caroni area, but now there is a sporadic spread into other counties such as St Patrick, Victoria, St George East, St George West and Tobago.
“All things being equal, it (recreational sports) seems to be a driver of the spike that we are seeing at this point in time and Minister (Deyalsingh) would have alluded to other factors in terms of complacency generally,” said Parasram.
“It is not one thing in the population that is causing the increase in the number of cases, it may be multi-factoral in nature, but to the large part it seems to be a breakdown in the adherence to the public health guidelines,” he said.
Mask wearing, he said, is one of the most important measures.
The CMO noted that people have not been adhering to the regulations, as he pointed out that large numbers—100, sometimes 200 people and more—were at savannahs in the country, not wearing face masks or shields.
Parasram said they anticipated that the spread would have started quicker in Caroni and Victoria because they had a higher base in terms of viral load.
He said people can easily go from one place to another, taking the virus with them, and he pleaded for extra vigilance as he emphasised that anytime one congregates without a mask, people are put at risk. He reiterated there are people who exhibit no symptoms and can be carriers of the virus.
Increased death risks
Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh said the decision to roll back on recreational sports came after consultation with the Prime Minister, National Security Ministry and CMO.
He said numbers have exceeded the limit of 22 people for sporting activities.
“The after-game lime is becoming dangerous, where food and drink start to come out and people are congregating without mask wearing,” he said.
This measure, he said, will not affect the training of the national and international teams for events such as Concacaf, World Cup and Olympics.
The minister said everything else remains normal. “You are free to come and go, but we are urging caution,” he said.
He said T&T needs to go back to the discipline exhibited in the past five months up into February this year.
Deyalsingh said people of this country seem to have decreased their vigilance and think they have beaten the virus.
He expressed concern that the spread is now inter-county.
The ministry, he said, is concerned about this recent trend in high numbers which have not been seen since last year.
Deyalsingh said if those numbers are extrapolated into the future without doing something now, the situation is going to become “untenable”, in that cases are going to mount to hundreds.
He said the country also risks increased deaths and more hospitalisation of people.
He appealed for vigilance during the Easter weekend, and urged people to not have a “big lime” at home and in public.
The minister noted other countries that are battling Covid waves are taking harsh measures to protect their populations.