Radol Poolchan and girlfriend Miriam Boliver with her family walk towards Vessigny Beach yesterday to enjoy the last day before the beach closure. Kristian De Silva

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Even as the country prepared yesterday for the newest phase of COVID-19 lockdown restrictions – which go into effect from today – another person died from the virus yesterday and 55 more people had tested positive, taking the overall number of positive cases so far in T&T to 552.

The latest victim is a 41-year-old man from South Trinidad. In its 10 am update yesterday, the Ministry of Health said the man had pre-existing medical conditions. On Friday, two people- an elderly woman and a man- died from the virus.

Despite this continuing upward trend in cases and deaths and a warning on Saturday to the public to avoid leaving home unless absolutely necessary, hundreds of people yesterday flocked to beaches, rivers and bars for what was deemed by many as last lap limes before today’s new restrictions kick in.

In an interview with Guardian Media yesterday, Health Minister Terrance Deyalsingh said he was disappointed but not surprised by the large crowds at beaches across the country.

“I know Trinidadians and Tobagonians and exactly what I feared came to pass, it’s just that certain sectors of the population don’t understand the situation that we are in and whilst most of the population behaves responsibly, it is that minority that does not get the message, doesn’t hear the message, that will endanger the whole society,” he said.

Deyalsingh reiterated that the lockdown was absolutely necessary because there is now community spread of the virus.

“With community spread, we have to have heightened vigilance and fewer people moving because what the virus preys on is the movement of people, especially where people are in settings where they have close contact,” he said, noting the cooperation and discipline of the public going forward will be critical to curbing the spread.

He said if the number of positive cases continue to rise as they have done over the last ten days, there is a possibility that more strict regulations will have to be enforced.

Earlier this year, the Government ordered all non-essential businesses to close in an effort to restrict the spread of the virus.

While this lockdown is not as restrictive as those before, Deyalsingh said he hopes it can stem the recent spike in cases. He said the virus is going to be around for the foreseeable future as the world still waits for an effective vaccine or treatment to be developed.

Commenting on the vandalism of the Guardian Media building in Port-of-Spain yesterday by anti-COVID group The Resistance, Deyalsingh said their actions can become a dangerous development. He said the wait for a vaccine gives these conspiracy theorists fuel to continue to spread their “rantings” and he appealed to the public to pay them no mind.

“There will be people who exist in alternate realities and don’t have a full grasp on what the world is facing with the coronavirus. As a person who has to manage the public response, this is a very dangerous development. I can only appeal to the public not to give in to these theories and as the honourable Prime Minister says, let the science continue to guide us,” Deyalsingh said.