While there are concerns that many party patrons are crowding events and disregarding mask-wearing laws in public, Minister of Health Terrence Deyalsingh says people are not obligated to mask in private settings.
Although recent parties at the Brian Lara Stadium, Tarouba; Queen’s Park Savannah, Port-of-Spain and O2 Park, Chaguaramas showed many mask-less patrons, Deyalsingh said yesterday that the Health Ministry is not insisting that fete patrons wear masks.
“You may recall in those days, we had the safe zone concept, and we have done away with all of those things. So in these events, we are not insisting on masking. Things have evolved, things have changed as we come to the end of this phase of the acute COVID-19 pandemic,” Deyalsingh said at the Ministry of Health COVID-19 update.
Deyalsingh said the ministry had discussed the issue, as it is always concerned about large gatherings where people are not wearing masks. However, he recalled a previous media conference when he announced the easing of public health measures. However, he asked everyone to do a personal risk assessment and repeated that everyone must engage in that appraisal.
“How much risk do I want to take to catch COVID or now Monkeypox and take it home to my family, infecting children, infecting grandparents?”
Deyalsingh said people should not assume that because there is no suspected or confirmed case of Monkeypox the virus is not here. Therefore, he said the same assumption that anyone could have COVID-19 should apply to Monkeypox, especially as the ministry did not implement any measures to stop its entry into the country.
“I know it is uncomfortable. I know people are just tired of adhering to public health measures. I get it, but this is what the world has brought upon us. It is our lot to bear and I think for the continued protection of loved ones, we need to be careful and weigh your risk as you party or engage in any social activity that may endanger yourself and your loved ones.”
Mask-wearing remains mandatory in public spaces and schools because the ministry believes it is the correct approach to prevent transmission. Deyalsingh said while mask-wearing in some situations is optional, the ministry still advises people to wear them. He said he wears a mask whenever he goes to a public event.
At a news conference earlier this month, Deyalsingh indicated that until this country’s Public Health Regulations expire on July 21, there will be more of a ‘wait and see approach’ regarding mask-wearing.
Meanwhile, despite recent fetes, Chief Medical Officer Dr Roshan Parasram noted a 30 per cent decrease in week-on-week COVID-19 cases. He said the trend observed in other countries with the Omicron variant was that it goes through a population in roughly six weeks. With 42 positive cases in 31 schools recorded between June 13-19, he explained this was because of overall decreases.
“The primary school population would have been a new population in terms of mixing and mingling. They came out for the first time in April, so we are about two months into that and technically speaking, you would have had time for that infection to go between those individuals, those households. Actually, we are seeing a return to some sort of baseline prior to the reopening in April,” Parasram said.
He said the ministry hopes for a sustained decrease and no resurgence of rising cases unless a new variant develops.