COVID-19 transmission rates are at an all-time low with an average of three people being infected daily, yet the country remains on high alert to keep out any variant strains of the virus.
Speaking at the Ministry of Health’s daily press briefing on Wednesday, chief medical officer Dr Roshan Parasram revealed that two variant strains- the B.1.1.7, also known as the UK variant and the Brazil variant also known as P.1, have been detected in Trinidad and Tobago.
“We continue to have cases of repatriated persons being positive even though they had a negative PCR 72 hours in advance. We also had a variant from Brazil but that person was aboard a vessel and wasn’t allowed to come into Trinidad at all,” Parasram said.
He revealed that out of 150 samples taken so far, the two variants were detected and the one with the UK variant, was a repatriated person.
Noting that the variants could derail any vaccination drive that T&T embarks on, Parasram said the Ministry of Health was exercising extreme vigilance in keeping out any possible strain.
“We are concerned about the variants more so than ever because we have seen how they impact vaccine efficacy and the spread of disease. Some of these strains are more transmissible. They spread from one person to the next much more easily and there is confirmation that some strains produce more morbidity and more severe illness,” Dr Parasram said.
He noted that between March 5 to March 8 out of 1,700 samples, there were no positive COVID cases. Counties Caroni and Victoria recorded the highest rates of COVID transmission in the country and Dr Parasram said 100,809 tests had been done of which 7,736 people had tested positive since March last year.
Despite the lowering of the epidemiological curve, Dr Parasram said the country will continue to exercise safeguards to keep out variant strains. He said it appeared that the reopening of school, had been successful as there was only one positive case at a school in Tobago.
Meanwhile, the director of surveillance, disease prevention and control at the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA), Dr Lisa Indar said it was advisable to continue enforcing sanitation protocols and physical distancing to keep away variants of COVID-19.
“The variant is a mutation of the vaccines and that is normal, viruses tend to mutate. The ones we have seen, all have shown to be more highly transmissible and the South African variant has a higher case fatality rate. The literature shows there are 4,000 variants. We have been working with UWI for gene sequencing and we have tested for all variants forms of COVID 19,” Dr Indar said.
She added, “The message with the variant here is we have to be more careful. Even though numbers are low, we want to be vigilant until we can be fully certain that vaccines can fully stop transmissions.”
T&T has recorded 140 deaths for COVID-19 so far and a total of 7,736 positive cases since March 2020.