Abdool-Richards, Deyalsingh: Trinidad and Tobago must be ready for omicron surge

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Dr Maryam Abdool-Richards.

THE omicron covid19 variant is not the dominant strain of covid19 in TT. Nor is there evidence of community spread of omicron in TT.

But TT must be ready to deal with an omicron surge which has affected 42 countries to date and has resulted in its becoming the dominant strain there.

Principal Medical Officer Dr Maryam Abdool-Richards and Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh issued this warning to the population during the virtual health news conference on Monday. After reminding reporters there have been 12 confirmed omicron cases in TT to date, Abdool-Richards said the variant “is not in community transmission as of today.”

The Health Ministry is reported to be doing all it can to test and monitor the situation regarding confirmed omicron cases. Deyalsingh said citizens must get their covid19 booster shots as soon as possible, because of omicron’s global spread.

“So we start 2022 with the impending threat of the omicron variant.”

Referring to the omicron cases mentioned by Abdool-Richards, he said some were among people who have not travelled overseas.

“As you see with the world experience, it is doubling every two to three days.”

Omicron, he continued, is straining health care systems worldwide and also crippling the airline, cruise ship and entertainment industries worldwide.

Abdool-Richards and Deyalsingh advised against using ivermectin, an anti-parasitic drug, as a substitute for covid19 vaccination.

Abdool-Richards said, “This is not WHO-approved. This is not according to our treatment protocols. We have seen negative consequences. We have seen persons die.”

She said some people infected with covid19 who come forward late are found to have used ivermectin.

“The outcomes have been very poor, creating a lot of grief and distress to their relatives.”

Abdool-Richards appealed to people to have confidence in the parallel health care system established to treat with covid19.

Deyalsingh added, “It is difficult to understand why patients will have confidence in ivermectin.”

He appealed to citizens to stop using it.

“Put your confidence in WHO protocols and come into us early. The earlier you come in, is the lower level of care that you need and the better outcome that you will get.”

The ministry is also improving the covid19 information being issued to the public. Deyalsingh said, “Statistics are more important now.”

The main statistic being used now will be covid19 vaccination status.

Deyalsingh said, “This is now the key variable around the world that governments, public health officials and populations are looking at.” Information will also be provided about the numbers of people vaccinated in certain periods and the vaccination status of people who die from covid19, since, he said, countries are adjusting their covid19 reporting formats “to show the clear disparity between the vaccinated and the unvaccinated.”

Deyalsingh also said global data reinforces the position that vaccination saves lives.

To date, 9.2 billion doses of covid19 vaccines have been administered and 58.3 per cent of the world’s population has received at least one dose of a covid19 vaccine. But of this figure, only 8.5 per cent of people in low-income countries have received one dose of a covid19 vaccine.

Deyalsingh said this speaks to covid19 vaccine inequity, which TT does not suffer from. He also said TT met the WHO’s requirement for countries to vaccinate at least 40 per cent of their population by the end of 2020.

As the pandemic enters its third year, he warned, “It is not over by any means.”

He declined to comment about covid19 restrictions on open-air cremations, as the matter is before the courts.