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THA Health Secretary Tracy Davidson-Celestine.

Camille McEachnie

Officials from the Tobago Regional Health Authority (TRHA) and County Medical Officer of Health (CMoH) said yesterday that people visiting each other’s homes are mainly responsible for increasing the number of cases of COVID-19 in Tobago.

They say antigen testing will begin in Tobago in one week, leading to faster results, but even then they’re advising people to get vaccinated.

Speaking at a media briefing yesterday, Health Secretary Tracy Davidson-Celestine related a story of an entire family becoming COVID-positive after one member visited another COVID-positive relative.

The Secretary said such visits could lead to an infection and death from someone unaware of their COVID status.

“We also know that asymptomatic people are superspreaders. We need to ensure that we isolate and vaccinate as much as possible,” she said.

On Thursday, the island recorded 49 new cases, the highest number of new cases in 24 hours since March 2020.

Responding to a question on the trends revealed through contract tracing for the 49 cases, a member of the Tobago COVID-19 response team, Dr Anthony Thompson, reiterated what Davidson-Celestine said.

“The bulk of those cases represented persons who were either contact of a known case or persons who presented with symptoms at our different testing facilities. Many of them represent clusters within households,” Thompson said.

He also said cases were traced to lunchrooms in offices.

“Workplaces (also) tend to be the most frequent areas where these clusters occur. In chatting with persons who call on the hotline, people often tell you when it comes to dealing with coworkers, sitting in the lunchroom, and going through the day, a lot of times people drop their guard and end up being exposed to persons inadvertently.”

The health authorities also announced the introduction of antigen testing on the island.

TRHA Medical Chief of Staff, Dr Victor Wheeler, said it would begin in a week or so.

He said it would improve the time between samples submitted for testing and results. It would also increase the TRHA’s capacity to test more. He reminded the authority’s testing methods included using a PCR machine and sending samples to the Trinidad Public Health Laboratory (TPHL).

The TRHA noted that samples tested via the antigen method will still be sent to TPHL as part of the health system’s validation protocol.

The TRHA also said it had given 5,814 people their first doses of the vaccine.