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Principal Medical Officer Dr Maryam Abdool-Richards

Principal Medical Officer in the Ministry of Health, Dr Maryam Abdool-Richards, is assuring citizens that there are no confirmed cases of the Delta variant in Trinidad and Tobago thus far.

However, speaking during the ministry’s media briefing yesterday, she said officials are preparing for the arrival of this particular COVID-19 strain and had activated additional beds at the level of the Intensive Care Units (ICU) across the parallel healthcare system, along with appropriate staffing requirements and supporting infrastructure to be able to care for critically ill patients.

Despite this, she appealed to citizens to adhere to public health regulations to wear a mask, wash their hands and social distance.

The Delta variant was first detected in India in December 2020 and the highly transmissible strain has quickly become the dominant strain in at least 124 countries.

Among the Caribbean countries that have so far confirmed the presence of this strain are Barbados, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Martinique, St Martin and Guadeloupe to name a few.

Saying there remained a narrow gap between admissions and discharges of COVID-positive patients in the parallel healthcare system locally, Abdool-Richards said, “Since July 15 or so, we have noticed a plateau in the actual number of patients within the system.”

With overall hospital occupancy in Trinidad standing at 38 per cent and 34 per cent in Tobago, she added, “This means that four out of every ten beds are occupied.”

However, occupancy at both the ICU and HDU levels continues to be high.

Commending the public for its high level of vaccine acceptance and acknowledging yesterday’s record numbers that flocked to get the AstraZeneca shots at various sites around the country, Abdool-Richards said up to 3 pm on Sunday, 5,400 appointments had been booked.

A breakdown showed 4,600 appointments were made via the online site, while 762 came through the ministry’s call centre.

Last week, a total of 82,500 AstraZeneca vaccines arrived in this country as part of a donation from the Canadian government.

On the topic of making vaccines mandatory, the PMO said vaccination requires the cooperation of the public, as it is safe and accessible to all who qualify for it.

However, she said the ministry has maintained it is an issue of personal responsibility. But with more sectors being reopened and increased movement of people and greater co-mingling, she said, “Vaccination is an additional layer of protection.”

She said making it a mandatory policy is, “sSomething that has to be reviewed and is really under the purview of Cabinet and the Prime Minister. At present, vaccinations are voluntary.”

Asked what mechanisms are in place to prevent people who accessed Sinopharm jabfrom re-entering the system to now receive the AstraZeneca vaccine, Abdool-Richards appealed to the public to be honest, although she said robust checks and balances are in place at each site and the record-keeping at the ministry’s level was up to date and transparent.