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Members of the public wait to be attended to at the Scarborough Health Centre in Tobago, yesterday.

Health Officials in Tobago are anticipating an increase in severe COVID-19 cases and the likelihood of more fatalities on the island. The startling information was revealed during a Division of Health Wellness and Family Development press briefing yesterday.

Member of the COVID-19 response team in the Office of the County Medical Officer of Health Dr Anthony Thompson said while Tobago had been fortunate to have mostly mild to moderate cases so far, based on statistics an increase in severe cases and fatalities often follows an uptick in positive cases.

“The curve starts rising from just around the end of March if you look at the curve for deaths, it lags behind the rise in new cases by a two-week period. The important point to note is that as we get higher numbers and more caseloads the expectation is that the case-mix and even more severe cases and potentially more fatalities.”

So far for the month of May, the island recorded 67 positive cases.

Ten of those cases were recorded yesterday, which brings the total number of active cases on the island to 70.

Secretary for Health Wellness and Family Development Tracy Davidson Celestine assured that the island’s health care system was prepared to manage an increase in cases. However, she said, Tobago will not consider a field hospital at this time as the division chose to “use the finances and upgrade existing buildings.”

The Health Secretary said the island was adequately equipped in terms of bed space, should the cases become overwhelming.

“We have already looked at other options if the numbers become overwhelming—we do not have a challenge yet with regards to bed space and our capacity and that of course takes into consideration the discharges we will have over the next week or two and the numbers we have awaiting testing in the lab, which is just about 13.”

Meanwhile, Dr Thompson said, statistics did not support any link between the rise in cases and the Easter holiday.

While he said “any opportunity where persons are gathered and interacting generates more opportunity for transmitting the disease,” he said many Tobagonians travel to Trinidad for various reasons and the statistics would indicate that the increase correlated to the period before the restrictions were imposed.

Officials also addressed the issue of testing as the average wait time for COVID-19 results is 4-5 days because all testing was done through the public healthcare system.

Dr Thompson said there were no private labs in Tobago with the capacity to do PCR testing on the island. He said the average wait time for a COVID-19 test result in Tobago would soon be reduced.

“Caribbean Airlines has launched a platform for their travellers to get samples taken in Tobago and transported to a private lab in Trinidad for testing.

General Manager of Primary Care at the Tobago Regional Health Authority Dr Roxanne Mitchell indicated So far 4,203 persons have been vaccinated on the island and of the figure 433 persons are from the health sector.

Officials say that 45,000 persons on the island are eligible to be vaccinated and officials have set a target of 70 per cent herd immunity.