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Dr Osafo Fraser

Anna-Lisa Paul

The unvaccinated minor who was recently diagnosed with the Delta variant most likely would have contracted it when he attended a family gathering.

According to County Medical Officer of Health, St George East, Dr Osafo Fraser, “This person was playing and interacting with other minors who we have also found to be positive prior to this individual, and those minors were unvaccinated.”

Speaking during the Ministry of Health’s (MoH) media briefing yesterday, he said,“The parents of those minors were also unvaccinated and we found they were subsequently positive.”

Underscoring several breaches of the public health regulations, he said the fall-out had now led to several people becoming infected, with a number of them becoming very ill.

He said one of the minors who had attended the gathering had been hospitalized before, and as a result, “We now have that one of the individuals had the Delta variant.”

Yesterday’s update came four days after the ministry confirmed the presence of the highly transmissible Delta variant among the local population –two Trinidadians and a migrant national. Each had no recent travel history.

Fraser appealed to the population to be more vigilant as he warned that minors had the capacity to become super-spreaders of the COVID-19 virus and all associated strains.

He said particular attention must be paid to this category of persons who are vulnerable as they are too young to be vaccinated.

“Minors are not to be ignored. They are vulnerable. A number of them can’t be vaccinated because of their age and so, they do present a weak point in our defence, which means as adults, we have to surround and prevent…form a barrier around them,” he urged.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has so far, only approved the Pfizer vaccine for use in children 12 years and older and local authorities are currently engaged in administering this vaccine to eligible persons.

Fraser said because of this, “We need to make sure we are doing all we can to be vaccinated. When minors play, they can spread infection, and the fact that they may be young, does not absolve them from getting infected and as a result, being a big point of spread.”

He stressed, “In some cases, they may be even more efficient spreaders than adults.”

During the past six weeks in the county of St George East, Fraser said 90 per cent of the persons that had been admitted to hospital had been unvaccinated.

Advising that gatherings are not helpful, he again appealed to those who are still unvaccinated, to make the effort to get the injection and to continue following public health regulations.

Echoing similar sentiments as the nation gets ready to celebrate 45 years as a republic tomorrow, Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh said T&T was once again at, “a very dangerous point.”

Acknowledging the frustration many had been experiencing due to the enforced isolation as a result of the lock-downs, he said recent data points compiled by the MOH were worrisome.

He claimed that if it went on to become trends, it could overwhelm the parallel healthcare system, and for the unvaccinated population, it could result in people not receiving treatment when they need it.

Referring to two recent illegal house parties in St Augustine and Mayaro where the police had cause to arrest persons, Deyalsingh said the attendees would have come from various counties to participate in the event and could easily have facilitated the spread of the virus.

In the party at St Augustine, people came from San Juan, Champs Fleurs, Diego Martin, Arima, El Socorro and Cunupia; while the event in Mayaro attracted people from areas such as Arima, Maraval, Couva, Arouca, Penal, Princes Town and Willamsville.

In each instance, he said this meant persons from four different counties would have been present.

Deyalsingh said, “It shows how easily in a small mobile country, any gathering can lead to nationwide spread and with the Delta variant which is more transmissible, it poses a clear and present danger to our health system.”

“When you marry that with our low vaccination rate where the majority of the population is unvaccinated, plus the Delta, plus these gatherings…it is a recipe for disaster.”

The minister empathized as he said, “I know we are tired. All of us are tired, but the virus is not tired.”

He said it was simply changing and rejuvenating itself to come back “stronger, wiser and more lethal.”

Expressing concern about the family limes and social gatherings that may be planned for tomorrow, Deyalsingh strongly advised against it as he said the tentacles of the virus could easily extend into every community.

He urged persons to act responsibly, adding, “I am deeply concerned about the little social gatherings that we know are going to happen. The little lunches, the limes, the drink up because people are tired and they want a release.”