Deyalsingh as 6 die in 4 weeks: Don’t ‘over exaggerate’ covid’s return

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh – File photo by Angelo Marcelle

AS concern continues to grow over the resurgence of covid19, Minister of Health Terrence Deyalsingh is calling on people to not “over exaggerate” the issue, even as six people have died from the virus in the past four weeks.

At a sitting of the House of Representatives on Friday, Caroni East MP Dr Rishad Seecheran asked Deyalsingh what measures the ministry intends to implement to treat covid19 infections, given the increase in covid cases and the influx of Carnival visitors.

Deyalsingh said covid is not yet endemic and contingency plans have been put in place, including a fully commissioned staff and a patient capacity of 272 beds.

He said only 13 of those beds are currently occupied, at three hospitals across Trinidad.

Deyalsingh said infection-prevention control protocols are “active and practised.”

“We have more than an adequate supply of protective personal equipment for our healthcare workers. We continue to do PCR and antigen testing. All this is an effort to treat covid19 patients.”

He said genotyping services at both UWI and the Caribbean Public Health Agency are operational, which is what led to the discovery of Trinidad and Tobago’s first recorded case of the JN1 variant.

Deyalsingh said it was crucial to note while  JN1, which is a fourth-generation omicron variant, is possibly more transmissible, it does not produce any more significant disease symptoms.

He added there are 2,133 vials of Tocilizumab to treat covid patients.

“Each patient requires four vials. So therefore we can treat 500 patients if needed. It must be noted that this is only reserved for severe confirmed cases of covid19.”

He said the Government has been in talks since last year about getting more vaccines.

“Since July last year…knowing that our vaccines were expiring in September. Those talks are progressing well, but I am under confidentiality agreements not to disclose the nature of those talks. But they are going well.”

Six people have died from the virus in the last four weeks, with four of those deaths occurring since the start of 2024.

Two people died from the virus from December 28-31, 2023. On January 15, the minister disclosed there were five deaths – the two in December and three between January 1 and January 15. On January 18, the Health Ministry reported one more death.

The minister, also on January 15, said Government had to dump nearly 800,000 doses of covid vaccines in 2023. He revealed this during the launch of the influenza vaccine campaign at the Divali Nagar, Chaguanas, where he also said there has been one flu-related death.

Since then, Deyalsingh told Parliament the current rolling seven-day average of covid cases is less than one.

During the height of the covid pandemic, TT’s rolling seven-day average hit a peak of 795 on December 9, 2021.

Deyalsingh said while the virus is not yet endemic, the ministry continues to advise people to take all the necessary public health precautions.

Revealing the discovery of the JN1 variant on January 18, the ministry encouraged people, particularly those in vulnerable groups, to weigh the risk to themselves, their families and their communities and to take the necessary precautions.

The ministry reminded the public that the elderly, pregnant women, immunocompromised people and those with chronic non-communicable diseases are more prone to severe outcomes if they contract covid.

It said the public should practise good hygiene, including:

* Washing hands regularly with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use alcohol-based hand sanitisers (containing at least 70 per cent alcohol).

* Regular cleaning and sanitising of high-touch surfaces (for example, doorknobs, countertops, desks).

* Avoid sharing personal items like utensils, water bottles, towels and wash rags with others.

* Avoid touching one’s face and eyes with unclean hands.

* Avoiding close contact with people who have symptoms of infectious viruses.

* Wearing a mask where appropriate.

* Staying home if you are ill.