The record numbers of new COVID-19 daily infections could be an indication of a highly transmissible variant being present in T&T and with the urgent need for more sequencing to be done to confirm this, Dr Joel Teelucksingh is advising that vaccination is the only way to keep this virus from spreading.
During a telephone interview yesterday on why the numbers were still so high as the nation gets set to head into a third week of restrictions, he explained, “The average incubation period of the virus is about five to 14 days so persons may have been infected before the start of the State of Emergency.”
This, he said, could account for the exponential explosion in new cases within the last two weeks.
However, he added, “There has not been adherence to the mitigation strategies outside of the curfew hours.”
He said this could be a contributing factor going forward, to the numbers of new infections that will be recorded.
Claiming that people continued to maintain close contact in settings such as banks, groceries, pharmacies and utility companies as they access these essential services, Teelucksingh said, “This is where the virus is spreading…in indoor settings where close contact is still very much present.”
He said the high infection rates could mean “The presence of highly transmissible variants have been allowed to run through a largely unvaccinated population which could cause an explosion of new infections and deaths, and the only way to deal with this is to vaccinate most of the population. We need more jabs in the arm.”
He called on the authorities to administer all vaccines currently in their possession to citizens as a first dose and not hold back vaccines for a second dose.
“Vaccinate as many thousands as possible with their first jabs. Do not keep back vaccines because with more coming soon, they will get their second dose in due course.”
Believing the population is no longer battling the original version of SARS COV-2 novel coronavirus which arrived in 2020, he said, “Last year, you were not seeing entire families being infected but now with the arrival of variants…it is actually a clue that variants are here and it is marked by the increased transmissibility we are seeing.”
“Stopping things like exercising and closing public parks is not going to stop transmission,” he said.
“Congregating indoors is the problem.”
Meanwhile, Teelucksingh believes the move to halt vaccinations on the two public holidays last week was a setback for the authorities as several hundreds would have had to be rescheduled to another time.
Agreeing that people continued to congregate but in smaller numbers since the SOE was implemented, cardiologist and Public Health/Public Policy specialist Dr Mandreker Bahall said, “At the end of the day, the surest way to curb this virus is through vaccination.”
He said while it is not the responsibility of service providers, grocery and pharmacy owners/operators, doctors, dentists and ophthalmologist to ensure that public health regulations are enforced outside of their respective businesses, there should be stricter monitoring in place not to penalise people, but to guide them and ensure there is no congregation or mixing.