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Tracy Davidson-Celestine, Secretary for Health Wellness and Family Development.

Tobago recorded 52 positive COVID-19 cases yesterday, the highest number recorded in a twenty-four hour period since the start of the pandemic.

This brought the number of active cases on the island to 288.

The island also reported one new death pushing the death toll to 32.

Speaking during a news conference yesterday Secretary for Health Wellness and Family Development Tracy Davidson-Celestine provided no details surrounding the drastic increase in cases.

Instead, she vehemently denied that efforts are being made to “cover up” the severity of the pandemic at the hospital.

According to Davidson-Celestine the increase in COVID numbers reflect an increased testing capacity at the hospital.

“It is an all-time high for us in Tobago and as I indicated it has to do with us being in a position to test more because we have increased our capacity and we now have the Antigen testing machine lodged at one of our sites,” she said.

Before this, the Tobago Regional Health Authority utilised Genomic Sequence testing for emergency cases and PCR swabs were being sent to the public labs for testing in Trinidad. About three weeks ago Antigen testing was initiated at the “Green Room” of the old Scarborough Hospital, however, validation of the process is still pending.

But when pressed about how many of the new cases were related to what health officials in Tobago described as “cluster cases” at the Adult Medical Ward of the Scarborough Regional Hospital, Davidson-Celestine said she was unable to provide details as “contact tracing is ongoing.”

And despite reports of an increase in cases and clusters at the hospital and other sectors, Davidson-Celestine denied that efforts were being made to downplay the severity of the pandemic on the island.

“When we are satisfied that the contact tracing process is over, and we can elicit sufficient information to provide to any members of the media we will do so because we are not hiding anything at the level of the TRHA or at the level of the Division of Health Wellness and Family Development.”

Members of the TRHA COVID-19 Response Committee Dr Anthony Thompson, Ag General Manager Primary Care Services Dr Roxanne Mitchell and Medical Chief of Staff Dr Victor Wheeler were all noticeably absent from the press briefing.

During yesterday’s briefing, an update on the island’s vaccination programme was presented by Primary Care Nursing Manager Katty-Ann Greenidge Ottley, who was the only healthcare personnel present.

Davidson-Celestine said the report was received before the start of the presser.

“The TRHA is focussed on providing solutions to the challenges and issuing information as it relates to vaccinations and the media is provided with the information available at this point in time.”

She again insisted that “there is no cover-up at the hospital and a hospital is a public place where quite a lot of persons will congregate for a number of reasons.”

The Health Secretary added the TRHA would not knowingly mislead the public and the TRHA is currently working on changing its policy from one where “only persons who are admitted for elective surgeries are tested for COVID-19 to one where all persons who are likely to become patients would be tested.”

At last week’s press briefing member of the TRHA COVID-19 Response Committee, Dr David Thompson announced that the number of cases related to the original “cluster” stood at 49 cases and four deaths.

He also announced that there were six cases reported at the COVID-19 Intensive Care Unit (ICU).