Ministry of Health Epidemiology Technical Director Dr Avery Hinds.

Rishard Khan

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Local COVID-19 cases appear to be rising and health officials are hoping it does not signal the start of a third phase of infections.

“We’re now beginning to see slightly larger numbers of cases per day than we’d seen throughout the early part of the year- the first seven days or so,” Director of the ministry’s Epidemiology Division Dr Avery Hinds said yesterday during a virtual press conference.

“So whereas we had between eight and 12 cases most times per day, we did not that there were cases rising into the twenties- 25, 21 over the past two days and this may very well be as a result of any of the gathering and congregation activities that may have occurred two weeks ago- two weeks ago being basically the beginning of the Christmas festivities.”

The ministry had been anticipating an impact from the holiday season but expected it later this month.

“We are hoping that this doesn’t establish itself as a rising trend but we do note the beginnings of an increase and we do note that they may very well be related to whatever activities took place behind the scenes over the Christmas period,” Dr Hinds said.

Professor of Virology at the University of the West Indies Dr Christopher Oura said: “Even if it’s a small uptick in numbers you have to be wary. The waves start relatively slowly and then increases and builds strength.”

He noted that it was still too early to say if this is the start if a new phase of infections as there are numerous variables at play. But he did note that citizens’ behaviours play a role in determining the magnitude of the phase if there is to be one.

“The height of the wave does depend on so many things. It depends on people’s behaviour and the importance that they take the public health precautions but it also depends on, you know, how close people are together and how much people are congregating and how much people are congregating indoors etc,” Dr Oura said.

Dr Hinds noted that it is especially important that citizens adhere to the advice and refrain from gatherings during this time which.

“We’re not recommending gatherings – we’re saying that we don’t want people to gather at all and if you end up gathering because of some necessity that we’d keep the numbers below a certain level,” he said.

“We can’t cheat the virus. There aren’t loopholes that we can exploit that will allow us to escape the consequences of inadvisable gatherings. Whatever we do will show up in increased numbers if we don’t abide by very strict guidelines.”

The ministry confirmed eight cases yesterday from samples collected over the weekend.