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SURGE AFTER SURGE: Dr Avery Hinds

NO single factor is responsible for the upsurge in Covid-19 cases, but rather a number of factors have contributed to the spread.

So said epidemiologist Dr Avery Hinds yesterday in response to a question over what caused the spike, during yesterday’s virtual news conference.

Both the Opposition and Government have pointed fingers at each other with the Opposition claiming the spike was due to Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley’s invitation for the public to visit Tobago over the Easter weekend.

Rowley has since come under fire for his accusations that the spike was caused by a number of vigils held following the murder of 23-year-old Andrea Bharatt. Rowley said the vigils were “organised and paid for” by the United National Congress.

Asked whether he believed the spike was caused by either of the two factors, Hinds said while there was a surge following the Easter period, cases had already begun to increase before then.

“What we note from our statistics is that we began to see a week-on-week increase in the number of cases recorded from about the start of week 10,” he said.

Hinds noted that there had been a 37 per cent increase in cases in week 10, an 89 per cent increase in week 11 and a 64 per cent increase by week 12.

This was around the time period March 7 to March 21.

The vigils began in early February and ended on March 12.

“We began to see a steady increase from one week to the next, beginning as early as that second week in March,” Hinds said.

“And then while that increase looked like it might have been slowing a little in week 12, that 64 per cent went down to 58 per cent increase in week 13 and 35 per cent in week 14—week 14 corresponding to the 4th of April—we then began to see large increases.”

Increased movement

April 4 was the weekend of Easter, but Hinds said the increases seen then would have been due to activities that occurred before Easter.

“We saw additional increases, but the increases preceded Easter and would have been, in part, related to whatever activities were happening before that and then compounded by additional movement. So, we had a surge on top of a surge,” he stated.

“And if you have one set of increases compounded on another, in terms of movement, then you have one speed of increases compounded on another in terms of this spike, which is what we saw epidemiologically,” he added.

Hinds said the reopening of sporting activities and churches also contributed.

“We had lots of things going on. We had the reopening of sporting activities...we had people who were going to church and not well. So that the driving factors for the surge at that point in time are multi-factorial. Increased movement, increased interaction for sports, increased movement because we were free to go to church and do other things that if we were ill would spark cases,” he said.

Slower rate

Nevertheless, Hinds delivered some more positive news yesterday as he noted that while there has not been any decrease in new cases, the numbers have been increasing at a slower rate.

“We do believe that the numbers of new cases over the past few weeks have actually begun not to decrease, but not to increase as quickly,” he said.

“We are now seeing that while we do continue to accumulate increasing number of cases from one week to the next, that percentage of increase is, in fact, a little smaller and has become smaller consecutively over the last three weeks. We’re hoping that this change in percentage is representative of the braking force that we are applying via all the public health regulations and recommendations that we have implemented over the past several weeks.

“The highest numbers that we saw so far have been those around the 11th, 12th, 13th and 14th of May. And we are now beginning hopefully to see slightly smaller numbers attributed to swabbing on each day. But again, we keep an eye on the data to see whether any retrospective data changes those figures,” he said.

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