The increase in Covid-19 cases in the country can be attributed to a sense of “False security,” instilled in the population between the months of April and June.
This according to Dr. Saed Rahaman, director of public veterinary health in Trinidad and Tobago. Speaking at a virtual media conference on Saturday, Dr. Rahaman noted that the months spent without local cases in the country led to complacency in adherence to public health guidelines.
“During the period April 7 to June 13 a period of approximately three months, Trinidad and Tobago recorded 10 new cases of coronavirus. As the CMO mentioned these cases were attributed to returning citizens who were repatriated here. This relatively low number of cases lulled the population into a sense of false security. Consequently, much of the gains made by the Ministry of Health in the implementation of the many guidelines we have prepared were eroded,” he said.
According to Bahaman, public health officers have noted varying levels of compliance throughout the business sector. Banking and financial institutions, he said, were rated as having excellent compliance, while large supermarkets were rated as having good compliance. Other sectors were however rated as being in low. These lapses he said, are the cause of the current increase in cases.
“Surveillance of the complacency and compliance by our public health inspectors indicated that certain sectors such as the financial and banking sector had excellent compliance. Large supermarkets were good, whereas other areas compliance levels were low. Despite having the necessary equipment for handwashing, signage for the wearing of masks, many institutions were now implementing these measures as recommended in the guidelines. Consequently, we started seeing a rise in the number of cases locally, with 16 cases reported in the period of June 13 to July 12. As the CMO indicated now within the last week or so we have had marked increase in the number of cases locally,” he said.
As such, he said, the only way to deal with this new spike in cases was through adhering to the existing guidelines.
“We need to understand as a population that our largest strategic weapon in the defeat of this virus is our behaviour. Behavioural changes even if made by most can be completely sabotaged by just a few who choose to disobey the rules. Every individual needs to understand their impact on the progression of this pandemic,” he said.
The core principles communicated through these guidelines, he said, were social distancing, handwashing, respiratory hygiene, facemasks and staying home if ill. Of these, social distancing he noted can be done in space and time. However, the effectiveness of social distancing can only be achieved with 80 per cent compliance from the general population.
“It is important to note that from a population standpoint you need to have at least 80 percent of individuals involving themselves in physical and social distancing to have an impact. If only some of the population engaged in social distancing it will not have the desired effect from a population perspective and so this is very important. Especially now in this season as the minister indicated we have a lot of people who may be gathering at different places and we want to ensure that while they gather, they socially distance,” he said.
Among other measures mentioned were the use of masks at all times while in a workplace, even among colleagues. Handwashing, he said, should be done both adequately and frequently, before eating, after using the washroom and before and after putting on a mask. Frequent sanitizing of surfaces should be done and small to medium sized businesses should hire a contractor capable of deep sanitizing for COVID-19.
Additionally, when employees are ill, he said that they should stay home and contact the COVID-19 hotline for testing,
“As we mentioned sick employees. We know of the case of the person who was a delivery driver who was sick and visited many establishments. If you are sick you need to stay at home, call the hotline and get tested as soon as possible,” said Rahaman.