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 post-Christmas 2020 Covid-19 spike, which medical authorities had been fearful of, may have started.

Head epidemiologist at the Ministry of Health, Dr Avery Hinds, said yesterday daily Covid-19 numbers have already started to climb, moving from an average of eight to 12 new positive cases per day, to the 20s.

The ministry is monitoring it, as there is usually an increase in people visiting health centres and hospitals after the Christmas and New Year season, in part because many people wait until after the festivities to get checked.

Chief Medical Officer, Dr Roshan Parasram, also noted yesterday that of the volume of people volunteering to get tested, around ten per cent were usually positive and this did not represent a positive figure within the population.

Medical authorities are again appealing to the population, simply, not to gather.

Speaking at the Ministry of Health’s virtual news conference on Covid-19, Hinds said once people gather and do not adhere to public health guidelines, such as mask-wearing, the numbers will tell the tale.

“We’re not recommending gatherings,” Hinds said, adding, “We’re saying we don’t want you to gather at all. As we move into what would normally be another mass gathering season, we have to refrain from our customary activities.”

Hinds was referring to the approach of what would have been the Carnival season and another period of mass gathering but said people must refrain.

“There aren’t loopholes that we can exploit that will allow us to escape the consequences of inadvisable gatherings,” Hinds said.

The numbers being seen now would have fit into the authorities’ warnings that evidence of increased viral spread would show up in the fortnight following December 25 (Christmas Day) activities.

Behind the scenes activities 

Reviewing the country’s epidemic curve for 2020 and analysing data on new infections for the year as at Sunday, January 10, 2021, Hinds said: “We can’t cheat the virus. Whatever we do will show up in increased numbers if we don’t abide by the very strict guidelines that we have been holding to.”

In the two days preceding yesterday, Hinds said numbers were higher than during the first seven days or so, of 2021.

“Whereas we had between eight and 12 cases per day, we did note that there were cases rising into the 20s and this may very well be as a result of any of the gathering activities which may have occurred within the past two weeks, basically the beginning of the Christmas festivities,” he said.

“We’re hoping this doesn’t establish itself as a rising trend but we’re beginning to note an increase,” he added.

The increase may also “very well be related to whatever activities took place behind the scenes over the Christmas period”, Hinds said and again advised: “We do want to continue to advise everyone to adhere to the health guidelines, staying the course as we continue to push back against the spread of the virus.”

Weekend sprees 

At least two large gatherings were exposed at the weekend, where people in attendance were seen close together, without masks.

On Sunday, some 71 people were ticketed $1,000 each at Chandelier Banquet Hall, at the Passage to Asia Restaurant building, when the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service (TTPS) raided a birthday party.

However, the issue of whether the law has validity where activities were hosted on private grounds, remains unclear.

Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh last said the matter was being looked at by Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi, and was a complicated one.

Videos also circulated Sunday night of what appeared to be a sizeable fete at Tyrico Bay, where persons interacted closely and did not wear masks.

The CMO warned increased numbers also meant more deaths (128 to date) and the authorities remained concerned at these types of gatherings.

“In general, we are concerned with any event occurring during a pandemic that causes people to gather in large numbers and they don’t abide by the guidelines,” Parasram said.

“Inevitably you’ll get an increase in the number of cases...you will get an increase in morbidity and mortality.”

A new, faster-spreading strain of Covid-19 emerged from the United Kingdom last month, sending that country and several others into severe lockdowns, with the mixing of households banned across some counties.

“As you have seen for other parts of the world that have the new strain, actually it is moving more quickly between people in those scenarios,” Parasram said.

Responding to a media question as to whether “pandemic fatigue” may have set in, causing more people to disregard public health recommendations and law, Hinds said: “The virus is not tired of us.”

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