Dr Maryam Abdool-Richards

Dr Maryam Abdool-Richards

The Ministry of Health today expressed concern over a noted increase in the number of Covid-19 cases being recorded on a daily basis.

Principal Medical Officer-Institutions, Dr Maryam Abdool-Richards said on Wednesday that while 197 cases were recorded yesterday, there has been a slight uptick in the seven-day rolling average which now stands at 209.

“I would like the population to note the seven-day rolling average and that increase because an increased number of confirmed cases will result in an increased number of hospitalisation, which may result in adverse events such as severe illness and unfortunately death.

“There are nine hospitals in the parallel healthcare system to treat severely and critically ill patients, and these are the patients that have a greater of risk of being transferred into the High Dependency Units (HDU) or the Intensive Care Units (ICU), where of course the risk of them having an adverse event like severe illness due to long stay, or death, increases.”

She stated that they are very concerned about this uptick especially given the context of the Delta variant being noted in the community.

“Another point of concern has been the ratio of severely and critically ill patients to recovering patients. From July 15 to present we noticed a ratio of three to one, meaning that there were three times as many severely and critically ill patients to recovering patients in the parallel healthcare system. This means that critically and severely ill persons require more resources.

“As of this week, again we’ve noticed a data point where there are now four time as many severely and critically ill patients in the parallel healthcare system to recovering patients. And there are implications for this new uptick as far as the risk of development or the risk of a person transitioning to ICU and HDU, and also from the parallel healthcare system’s resource side, an increased demand for resources, which of course will ultimately be limited,” Abdool-Richards said.

She noted that the occupancy level at all 16 facilities under the parallel healthcare system stood at 35 per cent.

“We have noticed an occupancy of less than 40 per cent since July 15. However, if we continue with the uptick in cases and it becomes a trend, we are at risk of crossing that threshold pattern that we crossed in the middle of May, where we went beyond our safety zone of 75 per cent, and although the parallel healthcare system was resilient and held, there was a potential for collapse.”

Trinidad, Abdool-Richards said, has an occupancy level of 35 per cent while occupancy in Tobago is 41 per cent, with a general increase in trend being observed in Tobago over the past month.

“As of this morning, the Intensive Care Unit occupancy is 88 per cent. The average Intensive Care Unit occupancy continues to be above 80 per cent, which means eight out of ten ICU beds continue to be filled. The HDU is currently at 29 per cent but of course, when we look at the average it is 60 per cent.”

She stated that concerns noted about the parallel healthcare system are even more relevant given the presence of the Delta variant.

“We continue to notice high Intensive Care Unit occupancies. We are now seeing an uptick in the number of patients in our hospitals and also, we continue to note paediatric cases being admitted. We accept and we appreciate your compliance so far with the public health regulations and the 3Ws. However, we need that extra layer of protection, and that is vaccination. We urge you to vaccinate today and not delay,” Abdool-Richards noted.

Meanwhile, Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh if the data point observed becomes a trend, it will place Trinidad and Tobago’s parallel healthcare system in a position where if people contract the virus, especially as the Delta variant spread among a largely unvaccinated population, they may not get treatment because the elasticity of the parallel healthcare system is not as elastic and stretchable as it was two to three months ago.

Deyalsingh also made reference to two incidents of public gatherings where 14 persons were held while at a house party in St Augustine and others being detained for being at a beach lime in Mayaro.

He noted that in both incidents the persons were residents of four different Counties.

“The point we’re trying to make is this, it shows how easily in a small mobile country any gathering can lead to nationwide spread. And with the Delta variant which is more transmissible, it poses a clear and present danger to our health system. When you marry that with our low vaccination rate where the majority of the population is unvaccinated, plus Delta, plus these gatherings, it is a recipe for disaster.

“Ladies and gentlemen, I know that we’re tired, all of us are tired, but you know what, the virus isn’t tired. Whilst we are tired the virus is changing, it is mutating and rejuvenating itself to come back at us stronger, wiser, more lethal.”

He noted that the 562,582 persons who have had their first dose vaccination represents just 40.2 per cent of the population, and if the 37,000 children between the ages of 12 to 18 are excluded, it means of an adult population of one million persons who are eligible to be vaccinated, just over half of that has been vaccinated.

“That is not good enough with the Delta variant not at our doorsteps again, it is actually in our living rooms.

“The decision we make individually and as communities, will determine whether we will keep it in the living room or whether it gets into our kitchens, bedrooms, closets. It was on our doorsteps, it has now entered out houses. How are we going to respond?”

The Health Minister expressed deep concern over the anticipate spate of social gatherings over the Republic Day weekend.

“The little lunches, the limes, the drink-ups because people are tired and they want a release. I want to urge for this Republic Day weekend that we do not congregate as persons in that party in St Augustine and in Mayaro because you see what happens, the tentacles of the virus go into every community.

“Continue to mask, continue with the hand hygiene, but now more than ever, we have to make a decision. For those who are still on the fence, it is not too late to make that decision today,” Deyalsingh said.

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