Chief Medical Officer Dr Roshan Parasram yesterday confirmed that there is now community spread of COVID-19 in T&T.
He said at yesterday’s media briefing at the Diplomatic Centre, St Ann’s, that only on Friday that he had recommended to the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO)—who would thereafter inform the World Health Organization (WHO)—to list T&T as having community spread.
Parasram explained: “Community being different from what we had categorized as local. Community meaning that there are a large number of cases which are unidentified or not linked to a cluster.
“We are still seeing that 50 per cent or 60 per cent of cases being linked to clusters which is a good sign. However, there is a large number of people coming into the facilities, surveillance wise, that we are picking up, that has not been at least immediately linked.”
Epidemiologist Dr Avery Hinds admitted that in the last week and a half to two weeks there has been “an increasing proportion of the persons who are coming in for surveillance testing, or coming in without a known or identified link to a positive case, turning up as positive.”
He urged anyone experiencing mild or severe symptoms such as shortness of breath or tightening of the chest to isolate and seek immediate medical attention.
Hinds said there is no specific geographic location where the majority of cases are being recorded.
Commenting on the fact that the positive cases that continue to emerge are not in keeping with real-time data, Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh explained that while the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) is turning around tests in the normal period there is an issue on the end of the Trinidad Public Health Laboratory (TPHL) to administer the results promptly. He said a lab manager has been relocated from the Insect Vector Division to map the process at the TPHL.
“The problem wasn’t the testing, the problem was the reporting of the cases,” he said.
Deyalsingh said by next Friday the authorities should have eliminated the back-log waiting to be tested and reported on.
He said the NCRHA’s PCR machine will be operational next week and a new algorithm and triage method had been requested which will significantly ease the current hiccups.
Deyalsingh said 48 persons were initially contracted during the first wave and a further 25 doctors and 50 more nurses have been added to the roster to help boost capacity at the level of the County Medical Officer of Health (CMOH). Meetings were scheduled for tomorrow with all the CMOH’s to determine their needs are.
Pressed to say if any of the recent positive cases originated with persons who had attended meetings or walkabouts leading up to the August 10 general election, Hinds said it was impossible to say as people have been known to withhold information.
On the issue of wearing masks and how effective it has been in stemming the spread of the virus, he said: “The actual feedback we got from many of the close contact situations when we did ask about mask-wearing, we did find that there was lax compliance with mask-wearing in situations where indoor transmission was concerned.”