The country’s COVID-19 death toll climbed to 37 yesterday, after the Ministry of Health confirmed that three additional people had died from the virus.
According to the ministry’s updates, the fatalities were all male with comorbidities. The deaths bring the count to 29 for the second phase of infections locally which began on July 20 with case 139. Of these recent deaths, 22 have occurred since September 4.
The number of active cases also climbed to 1,506 after 27 cases were recorded. However, the ministry noted this was not representative of a 24-hour increase as it included the results of swabs taken as early as September 28. The new cases bring the total number of people to test positive for the virus since the first case was recorded on March 12 up to 2,277. Discharges remained at 734.
Commenting on the recent wave of deaths during the ministry’s virtual press conference yesterday, Technical Director of the Epidemiology Division of the ministry, Dr Avery Hinds, said: “What we’re seeing now is basically the reach of the virus getting into those vulnerable populations as community spread continues.”
The second wave of infection has been ongoing for a little over seven weeks now and Minister of Health Terrence Deyalsingh is placing some of the responsibility for its spread on young people among other groups.
“What is driving, partially driving our second wave, is the demographic of the 25s to 49s who are taking the virus home, infecting the families, infecting the elders,” Deyalsingh said during the press conference.
Also driving this phase of the local epidemic, he said, was the refusal of many to adhere to the guidelines and advice to stay home when ill.
“We are getting more and more reports both in the private sector and in the public sector—including health, we are not immune to this—where people are going to work knowingly ill and are infecting whole workforces,” Deyalsingh said.
“This is putting tremendous strain on the public health sector and I don’t think we can legislate against that one but we are appealing once again—the two main drivers for this second wave are the behaviour of young people…and the insistence of people who are ill, knowingly ill, going to work.”
The blame placed on “younger people” was substantiated by demographic data presented by Hinds. The graph showed that an estimated 57 per cent of recorded cases were between the ages of 25 to 49. It also indicated that there were more males infected than women, with 54.4 per cent and 45.6 per cent respectively. Those under the age of 19 comprised 9.84 per cent of cases recorded. This leaves an estimated 34 per cent infected over the age of 49.
While the ministry is combating the pandemic, it is also trying to prevent any other epidemics occurring during this time when the country is already dedicating significant resources and efforts to the COVID-19 fight. This is why Deyalsingh said it is time for the “anti-vaxxer” narrative to end.
“Again, we appeal to people to stop pushing your anti-vaxxers theories,” he said in response to a question from Guardian Media.
“We continue to tell the public that vaccinations have saved millions—tens of hundreds of millions of lives around the world and the risk of any adverse event out of vaccinations is so minuscule…vaccines are safe, they are effective in combating childhood diseases.”
The ministry is currently on a campaign urging parents to maintain vaccination schedules for their children to prevent an outbreak of preventable diseases which have, for the most part, been eradicated locally.
Expanding further, manager of the Expanded Programme on Immunisation, Grace Sookchand, said historical and statistical data locally have shown “vaccinations work.”
“We have not had an outbreak of Polio or Measles for over two decades. Our statistics have shown that it is working in Trinidad and Tobago,” Sookchand said.
She acknowledged that “anti-vaxxers” are an issue in the country but notes the group isn’t “in a large proportion.”