With restaurants ordered to close amid the recent spike in Covid-19 cases, street vendors have become the next best thing for those wanting to purchase a ready-made meal.
But Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh says he is disturbed by the crowds of people gathering to purchase food from roadside vendors.
Speaking during yesterday’s virtual media briefing, Deyalsingh said the Ministry received reports of crowds of people congregating at street vendors in several locations across the country.
“Last night and this morning we got some very disturbing news and videos about hundreds of people congregating in the Eddie Hart grounds (in Tacarigua) to buy food,” he said.
“In Cross Crossing, San Fernando, in the (Queen’s Park) Savannah, at Curepe Junction. This is not the time for discerning members of the public to be congregating by your hundreds to buy food.”
Deyalsingh pleaded with the public to “shelter in place” and only come out for necessary activities.
“Only come out now as we did last year, to go to the pharmacy, to go to work, to go to the grocery. Cook at home.”
Deyalsingh said the issue was not one of placing blame but one of personal responsibility.
He said if this behaviour continues, it may lead to hospitals being overwhelmed.
“So I just want to plead with people again not to congregate. Yesterday we had to ramp up our dialysis facilities in the Arima Hospital. We have currently ten people on haemodialysis already. And if we continue at this rate, people who need it two to three weeks from now will not have a dialysis chair.
“What are we going to tell those persons? How do we explain to families that the parallel healthcare system which has performed admirably, cannot provide a dialysis chair because you went to Eddie Hart grounds to buy food or Cross Crossing, or Curepe Junction? Now is the time to shelter in place,” Deyalsingh said.
Hospital bed space
Principal Medical Officer – Institutions, Dr Maryam Abdool-Richards, also warned that if Covid-19 cases continue to climb, hospitals may soon run out of space.
She said the hospital occupancy rate had increased significantly in recent weeks.
“We have noticed especially in the past week the percentage and the overall occupancy of the hospital system increased to a maximum of 50 per cent. We have also noted a significant increase in the occupancy of the ward level patients which is between 37 and 50 per cent in the middle of the week. The ICU rates have also increased going up to 40 per cent as well as High Dependency rates going up to 25 per cent.”
She said ten per cent of all Covid-19 cases will require hospitalisation.
“That means for every 100 positive cases, ten people need to be admitted to a hospital in the parallel healthcare system. It means as well in terms of how ill these patients are and the severity of their condition, that even though we are admitting ten persons for every 100 we are only discharging two for every 100. There is a net gain of eight persons for 100 positive cases.
“If we continue on this trend especially given the recent number of 326 per day, we will not have the parallel healthcare system available when we really need a bed for yourself, for your co-worker, for your family and others,” Abdool-Richards said.
The Arima Hospital has now been brought back on stream as a Covid-19 treatment facility, she noted.
The hospital was previously added to the parallel healthcare system but was taken off-stream in February due to the low number of cases being recorded at that time.
Now, the Ministry says 67 additional beds will be made available at this facility as well as another 50 at the Couva Hospital.
The Augustus Long facility will be used to treat confirmed positive cases.
“Yesterday we reactivated and operationalised the Arima General Hospital and added 67 additional beds to the grid. It is important to note that overnight ten of those beds were used up,” Abdool-Richards noted. “As of 10 a.m. (yesterday) morning, the overall hospital occupancy is 24 per cent but that decrease is only because we added 67 beds at Arima and another 50 at Couva which increases the overall capacity of the system.”