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People enter the Queen’s Park Savannah COVID-19 vaccination facility at the Grand Stand, Port-of-Spain, yesterday.

Rishard Khan

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It seems like there’s a new twist in the pandemic every week which, for many, is exhausting.

It’s why some have chosen to believe the milder than Delta severity of the Omicron variant offers a glimmer of hope that the pandemic is waning. Trends have even emerged internationally of people intentionally getting infected with the variant in the hopes of building natural immunity against it and previous variants. However, the variant must not be underestimated or taken lightly.

“It is much more contagious (than previous variants). Even though numbers for numbers, it doesn’t rack up exactly the high severity of disease that we saw with Delta because the contagiousness is so great, they going to have higher numbers of cases and that would translate into higher numbers of people having severe disease and death,” geneticist Dr Nicole Ramlachan warned.

On Saturday, the Ministry of Health’s epidemiology division’s technical director Dr Avery Hinds said the variant is likely circulating widely among the local population. It’s a suspicion bolstered by the fact that of the 56 cases detected in T&T, some 26 had no immediately clear source of infection.

Given the variant’s increased transmissibility compared to the Delta variant, experts are predicting a surge in COVID-19 cases locally as witnessed in all other countries where the variant is in community spread.

But this surge will come at a time when the medical fraternity is already exhausted from a two-year-long battle with the pandemic.

“Persons have obviously noted that they’ve experienced anxiety, some persons experienced depression. I’m sure there is burnout which is something that’s understandable considering that long hours are involved in giving the best time and care to patients and that would include the doctors and the persons who work along with them,” newly elected president of the T&T Medical Association Dr Marissa Nimrod said.

She said vaccination will go a long way in reducing people’s chances of becoming severely ill and hospitalised which will, in turn, ease the burden on healthcare workers.

“As you could see from the numbers we have quite a few persons in hospital who are unvaccinated, the statistics are there and if the statistics need to be changed, the onus is on each and every one of us to be our brother’s keeper and to give the correct information to prevent our loved ones and friends from becoming statistics and landing up in the hospital centre,” she said.

Ramlachan also suggested that people switch from surgical masks or cloth masks to wearing N95/94 masks to protect against the newest threat.

“(These masks) are the highest level of protection against the small particulates. If you have to wear cloth masks, try to double up. Try to wear the triple-layer ones with where you can put in the filters and those kinds of things,” she said