As the Government moves to reopen the borders on July 17, Chief Medical Officer Dr Roshan Parasram has assured that stringent measures are in place to guard against new COVID-19 infections, regardless of the variant.
Parasaram made the comment during the Ministry of Health’s COVID-19 media conference yesterday, on how comfortable the medical team is about the opening of the borders given that the Delta variant has been detected in the region.
Parasram said, “In terms of the reopening of the border, as you saw and in terms of my presentation on Saturday, there is a pretty stringent category for those who are unvaccinated. As you know, non-nationals who are unvaccinated will not be allowed entry in the first instance. Those unvaccinated persons now have to do 14 days in a state- supervised scenario, which will allow us to get any positives that come out of that cohort at day seven and allow us to ring-fence it as best as we can.”
He added, “Even for persons who are vaccinated, they having a PCR test prior to entry, which gives us an additional layer of protection to make sure that those persons are not infected at the time of boarding the plane and coming into the territory. So we have put stringent quarantine protocols in place to avoid or to minimise the risk of COVID- positive (people) coming into the country regardless of variant of concern.”
In answer to another question, Parasram said it’s too early to say to what extent the vaccination programme is contributing to the decrease in daily infections.
As of 4 pm yesterday, the ministry said 219,964 people had received their first dose of vaccines while 120,059 people received both doses.
However, Parasaram said based on the trajectories of the curves presented by Dr Avery Hinds the decrease in infections continues along the same pattern associated with the public health measures and the State of Emergency.
He said, “I haven’t seen the full impact of the vaccination kicking in based on the trajectory of the curves that we saw. But, it is a little early, most people start to see somewhat of an effect when you hit 20 per cent fully vaccinated, then when you go beyond 40 and 60 you begin to see much more of an impact on a population level. So we hoping that if we could get those numbers up very quickly and it requires people to do two things continue doing public health measures, wearing your masks watching your distance as well as when vaccines are available to you ensure to take it to bring it to that state much quicker time frame.”
Asked about the status of the three people who developed vaccine-induced thrombocytopenia thrombosis after taking the vaccine, he said they are at home and in a clinically stable condition.
Speaking on the importance of vaccination, UWI immunology lecturer Dr Carla-Maria Alexander said based on a study done in Israel, people who received the first COVID-19 dose then contracted the virus had lower viral loads than unvaccinated people.
They also showed a decreased risk of transmission. She added that in countries with a robust vaccination programme there has been a decrease in the infection rate.
Encouraging people to get vaccinated to reduce their risk of infection and to increase the ability to achieve herd immunity, Alexander also urged people to continue practising the three Ws.
Meanwhile, the Ministry’s Director of Medical Health Dr Hazel Othello, noted that while many people are under mental stress during the pandemic it does not mean that they are mentally ill.
“Sometimes it gets a little bit blurred and because of the number of people who have affected by mental health since the onset of the pandemic people sometimes get the impression that everybody or almost everybody is in a mental health crisis. That is not so.”
Using a spectrum of mental health pyramid to explain, she said the vast majority of people has no distress or no problem, but people sometimes experience mental distress. “It is not an illness, it is not a crisis.”
She explained that some people experience mental health problems, which is a level up from the mental distress stage.
Othello advised people on either level of the spectrum to take care of their mental health.
Despite the stigma, she encouraged under mental stress to seek help and practice the three Ss, Self Care, Seek Help and Support Others. She reminded the public that mental care services are available at all regional health authorities and the healthcarett.com website is also available.