OUR country went into the busy four-day Easter weekend with a steady rise in new Covid-19 cases and we emerge from it having endured renewed banning of recreational sports. The Prime Minister announced on Thursday, in what we reported as an unscheduled radio appearance, that we were at “dangerous crossroads”. He said we had gone from “a fairly protracted period of low levels,” to a juncture at which we have experienced “a quick uptick” in the numbers of Covid-19 cases.
The number of new cases reported last Friday was 44. On Saturday that figure was 20. On Sunday it was 42 and yesterday it was a further 14. It is in the midst of this worrying return to the steady increase in such numbers we approach today’s official start of the national vaccine roll-out programme.
There is no question here about the need for this exercise to be made to run at maximum efficiency. There is no room for human error or mishaps. The public has been assured that all the necessary resources are in place, including supporting equipment, staff, refrigeration at every point along the chain, along with all the other incidentals that are required to be set up. Priority recipients have also been contacted. With a supply of 33,600 doses to be shared among 21 health centres across the country, the average of 1,600 to be dispensed is hardly enough to put pressure on the system.
The only issue now would seem to be the date for arrival of the next batch of vaccines, which remains clouded in mystery. What we have been assured, from the perspective of the country’s Chief Medical Officer, is a plan to issue the first half of this batch in hand, by which time there should be word as to the expected arrival of the next tranche of vaccines. This, Dr Roshan Parasram said, would determine whether this first phase will make use of all the doses now in hand.
Overwhelming demand and manufacturing challenges have been compounded by cargo delivery problems which place importing countries at an even greater disadvantage in accessing vaccine supplies.
T&T’s next best bet might be the African Medical Supplies Platform (AMSP). The chairman of Jamaica’s National Health Fund announced last Wednesday that 75,000 vaccines secured through the AMSP were due to arrive in that country within five days. Assuming that went as planned, T&T’s order shouldn’t be far behind. If the Government is confident about its arrival then distribution of this initial 33,600 should take place in this first round. With the population assured of a second round on the horizon, public anxiety which is at a new high, with the continuing increase in the numbers, could be eased somewhat.
What is of paramount importance here and now, however, is patience across the society, adherence to the suggested guidelines on behaviour appropriate in the circumstances, and clinical action and unquestionable assurances by those in authority.