Dr Avery Hinds.jpg

(flashback)giving an update: Dr Avery Hinds, technical director in the Epidemiology Division at the Ministry of Health, gives a Covid-19 update at the Ministry of Health news conference at Ncrha recently. 

THE risks of contracting and spreading Covid-19 remain the same whether you are at a social gathering or a “zesser” party, according to Ministry of Health’s head epidemiologist, Dr Avery Hinds.

Heading up the ministry’s virtual news conference on Covid-19 yesterday, Hinds pleaded with the public not to play “corona roulette” with the nation’s health.

“We rather not play corona roulette,” Hinds said, after being asked to address separate incidents at the weekend concerning large parties that defied the recommendations of public health officials like himself, that gatherings remain limited at this time to no more than ten people and that the six-foot-apart physical distancing rule be kept in place.

“This is not the time to play this game,” Hinds warned, while appealing to the public at the same time. “This is the time to try to reduce risk to the greatest extent possible.”

On Sunday morning, the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service (TTPS) raided a 250-person party at a warehouse in Kelly Village, Caroni, where a fete was said to have been in full swing.

All 250 people were detained and Commissioner of Police Gary Griffith has said all those persons will face the full brunt of the law for breaking public health regulations that forbid crowds larger than ten.

Meanwhile, the public has asked why the same process was not applied to a wedding in Valsayn on Saturday night, which was said to have a large number of guests, including Government officials.

Hinds said the Covid-19 virus does not discriminate and no “inherent” differences existed in the level of risk at either event.

He said Covid-19 doesn’t act based on economics, location or occasion and seized the opportunity to remind the public how critical it was to abide by the regulations at this time.

“There is no distinction between one type of gathering and another with regard to the Covid-19 risk,” Hinds said, later stating that while the law has the ability to discern in the policing of public versus private spaces, the virus does not.

“The virus does not discriminate between one setting and another, if protocols are not followed to prevent the transmission of illness.”

Compliance critical

Hinds was later asked whether new quarantine rules should apply to all persons found breaching the health regulations at such events, making it obligatory to isolate for the recommended period.

He said this would not be practical, as each person carries with them a network of other people, a “web”, whom they would have had contact with and that network continues to expand exponentially with its potential risks. Compliance with the health regulations remains the most effective and available solution, he again noted.

“The general concern remains that if any group of individuals in any space, public or private, chooses to gather in numbers that exceed the recommendations, continue to have events or gatherings or have a situation where people are not physically distancing, where there are more people than there should be in a given space, where people aren’t wearing masks because of whatever activity they are engaged in, all of these factors are concerns,” Hinds stated.

More males infected

Avoiding a major spike in Covid-19-positive cases for Christmas can only be possible through adherence to the regulations by the majority of the population, Hinds stated.

In his epidemiological report, Hinds had noted that the jump from an average of just over 20 new cases per every few days, to 126 at the weekend, was expected as a result of the relaxation of some restrictions two weeks ago.

While this was not specifically mentioned by Hinds, this would have included Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley’s reopening of beaches two weeks ago, and a return to in-house dining at restaurants at 50 per cent capacity.

Hinds said the increase would have occurred even without a cluster outbreak of Covid-19 cases within the prison system that pushed the numbers up, and that this was important for the public to note. This injection of cases also accounted for the continued preponderance of males being infected, he said.

Unless the country wants to engage a cycle of relaxation-to-lockdown heading into Christmas, compliance with the public health guidelines is the only way.

Again appealing to each person to recognise the role of individuals and then, the collective and community effort, Hinds asked that people not “take chances” with their health or that of others — including their loved ones.

“As individuals and as a collective, every decision determines the way forward,” Hinds said, adding, “We are hoping that (an increase) is not what will happen going into Christmas.”

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