Dr Hazel Othello

The Health Minister is advising members of the public involved in candlelight vigils and demonstrations, condemning the murder of Andrea Bharatt, to adhere to the public health guidelines.

The Director of Mental Health is also urging citizens not to be fearful after Andrea Bharatt’s murder since it can affect the COVID strained mental health of the nation.

Speaking at a Ministry of Health update yesterday, Minister Deyalsingh extended condolences to Bharatt’s family and said the public has a right to grieve.

But given concerns that large gatherings can act as a super spreader for the COVID-19 virus, the minister urged demonstrators not to flout the rules.

“What I will urge people to do and the organizers of the vigils is just organize them in a way that you have ten persons in anyone vicinity, make sure they are masked, have hand sanitisers, make sure they are distanced as far as possible. If you want to have a vigil with thirty people just make sure they are spread out, just stick to the public health guidelines.”

Director of Mental Health Dr Hazel Othello also offered condolences to Bharatt’s family.

She said while the incident may have sent shock waves across the country, living under constant fear when COVID is very present can have mental consequences.

“I am saying let us do everything within our power to be safe but let us not be fearful, let us not be afraid to leave our houses or afraid to go to school or afraid to participate in activities, because we cannot live that way.”

She added that while Andrea’s murder has impacted the country, she warned that being fearful was not healthy for the nation at this time.

Instead, she urged citizens to trust “those who have responsibility for protecting us and give them the opportunity to do their best, while we can assist in keeping ourselves safe and be careful but not fearful.”

Over the last few months, Dr Othello spoke about the impact the virus is having on the mental health of citizens as well as pandemic fatigue and how it can lead to frustration which if left unchecked can lead to mental health disorders.

Barbados offers TT vaccines

Meanwhile, the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines is expected to commence within a week after the first batch becomes available.

During the update, Minister Deyalsingh said the ministry is also set to transition from the management of the virus to controlling it through the roll-out of a robust vaccination programme.

T&T has been allocated an initial one hundred to one hundred and twenty thousand doses of the Oxford AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine via the COVAX facility.

“We have made all preparations to start the vaccination drive, once the vaccines are physically in Trinidad and Tobago and we can certify the cold chill has been maintained. We anticipate the rollout to start between 3 to 5 working days after receipt of the vaccine, so those are the type of timelines we are working with,” said Deyalsingh.

He also spoke about the offer from Caricom neighbour Barbados to give some AstraZenecca vaccines to this country after it receives them from India. He said once it meets the criteria and regulatory process by the World Health Organisation, this country will have no problem in taking part in that vaccination programme.