Deyalsingh: No evidence of massive covid19 school spread

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Terrence Deyalsingh.

Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh has said while there was an increase in the number of covid19 cases detected in schools over the last two weeks, the difference is negligible, because testing took place in double the number of schools.

Speaking at the Health Ministry’s weekly virtual covid19 media conference on Wednesday, he gave a breakdown of the numbers received from the Education Ministry for the various school districts from May 9-15.

“In Port of Spain and environs, there were 95 positive cases out of 32 schools, with testing taking place at 105 schools.

“In the North Eastern Division, there were 22 positive cases from 15 schools, with testing in 20 schools. In Caroni there were 54 positive cases from 25 schools, out of 73 tested schools.

“In St Patrick there were 23 positive cases from 13 schools, with testing at 37 schools.

“In Victoria there were 52 cases from 22 out of a possible 60 schools.

“In the South Eastern division there were 28 cases from 20 schools out of a possible 23.

“And in St George East, 54 positive cases from 26 of a possible 56 schools.

“In total, there were 328 positive cases out of 153 schools, with testing taking place in 404 schools.”

Deyalsingh said for the previous week, there were 306 positive cases at 144 schools, with testing taking place in 186 schools.

“Based on the fact that testing took place in twice the number of schools, even though there was an increase in the numbers of cases and schools, there is no evidence of a massive school-based spread of the virus.”

Principal medical officer Dr Maryam Abdool-Richards said overall hospital occupancy is at 32 per cent, with 205 patients in the parallel health care system, including two children. She said 15 per cent of the usage of ambulances recently was for covid19 patients.

She said there had been positive trends in the system since February 18, and occupancy remained below 40 per cent. Eight of ten hospitalised people were unvaccinated, and she said the low levels of hospitalisation in the high dependency and intensive care units could be ascribed to the impact of vaccination and the effects of the omicron variant.

Epidemiologist Dr Avery Hinds said there had been a rise in cases since the third week in April into the first two weeks of May.

“For the last three weeks, we have been seeing approximately 500 new cases daily, with approximately 3,500 cases weekly, and 49 per cent positivity.

“If that trend continues this week, we will see a four-week plateau in terms of the number of cases.

“So far we have not reached a point where the health system is under stress but we are appealing to everyone to continue to take measures to reduce risk of transmission.”

He said the increase in cases was related to the reopening of the economy and schools, and the increased movement. He said the ministry was watching to see if numbers would plateau, increase, or decrease.

Asked about whether the ministry was concerned about the many instances of people not wearing masks at parties, in bars, and other social occasions, Hinds reminded that mask-wearing is still mandatory and a legal requirement.

“We are concerned about spread, especially with gatherings indoors. We need to ensure that that level of non-pharmaceutical intervention remains strong while people go about what they consider a normal life.

“I hope that handwashing in front of establishments never goes away, as this will help us with the reduction of other transmissible diseases.

“Checking for temperature should continue so that people can be aware if they are unwell.”

Deyalsingh said he had given the ministry’s permanent secretary instructions to write to elder care homes to ensure they were following protocols, as well as to form teams to do spot checks at homes for elder abuse and other issues.