Chief Medical Officer Dr Roshan Parasram


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Chief Medical Officer Dr Roshan Parasram says the most concerning feature of the novel coronavirus is its rapid spread.

Speaking before a Public Administration and Appropriations (PAAC) meeting yesterday, Parasram said since January 25, there has been a 1,000 per cent increase in the number of cases seen in China and around the world.

Parasram reiterated that there are no suspected cases in T&T at this time and said the state is ready in the event that the virus is detected or suspected here.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) situation report for February 5, 2020, there are currently 24,554 confirmed cases worldwide. There are 24,363 cases in China, 3,219 severe and 491 deaths so far. Outside of China, there are 191 confirmed cases in 24 countries with one death.

During the PAAC, which was chaired by House Speaker Brigid Annisette-George, Parasman gave a breakdown of the death rate of the novel coronavirus.

“The death rate has been calculated so far at just under three per cent if you compare that with SARS, it was about 10 per cent to put it into context when you look at something like Ebola it was about 50 per cent. Influenza would be just under one per cent mortality rate,” he said.

In speaking about concerns of virus’ spread, Parasram said most of the concern with the virus is its rapid spread rate.

“In just a few days, it seems to be galloping along in terms of the epidemic. And not only that, the number of countries that would have imported cases and now some of them having cases spread from person to person in those countries has increased rapidly to just about 20 countries in a few days,” Parasam said.

But he said while the mortality rate may seem high now, he believes when the virus is controlled and data is looked at retrospectively, the death rate will be much less than is being predicted.

In addition to representatives from the Ministry of Health, representatives of the Ministry of National Security, including the Immigration Division, were present. The committee was told of the screening process when travellers enter the country, from screening with hand-held thermal body scanners to the possibility of passengers being isolated and quarantined.

The group were asked by committee member Nicole Olivierre what limitations were found in the overall mechanisms of the process in dealing with the coronavirus.

Parasram said while there are often inter-agency meetings, he believes a multi-sectoral committee needs to be established with set terms of reference who could meet on a regular basis to deal with public health emergencies.

Committee chair, Annisette-George agreed and asked the Ministries of Health and National Security to discuss who would take the lead in such a committee and report back to the PAAC by Monday.

Committee member Dr Lackram Bodoe asked Parasram whether he would play mas for Carnival given the concern over the coronavirus.

“I don’t think there is a risk of coronavirus to the country, given all that we have discussed

when we speak of influenza and close public mingling of people is considered a threat to public health generally, the precautions are necessary but everyone has to evaluate your personal risk, you can ask your medical practitioner what they think as well,” Parasram said.