Soldiers drop off equipment at the field hospital set up outside the Couva Hospital, yesterday. (Image: SHASTRI BOODAN)
Renuka Singh

The Government of the United States has donated two 40- bed tents to assist with the climbing COVID-19 numbers at the local parallel health care facilities.

As the COVID-19 positive numbers continue to rise and with the parallel health care system nearing capacity, there was welcome news that the two field hospitals would help bolster the quickly diminishing bed space.

Technical Director of the Epidemiology Division Dr Avery Hinds said each tent holds 40 beds with ICU and HDU capabilities and would be deployed at the Couva Hospital and at the Jean Pierre Complex in Port- of- Spain.

The announcement was made at yesterday’s COVID-19 update hosted by the Ministry of Health.

“So if additional capacity is required, these can be pressed into use and the plans for the actual deployment of these have been outlined. As additional capacity is required then these would be operationalised,” Hinds said.

The 80 beds are available but have not been engaged for use yet.

Hinds also said that in the last 24 to 48 hours, 130 beds have been added to the step-down facilities, which has the effect of further reducing the overall hospital occupancy rate and freeing more beds at the parallel healthcare facilities.

“The overall occupancy in the ambulatory setting is 41 per cent, the ICU setting is 84 per cent, the HDC setting is 93 per cent,” he said.

“The decrease in the occupancy is really because of the increase in the total number of beds being counted,” he said.

“We want to emphasise that as new cases are being diagnosed, these people are ill, they continue to need hospital care and this is an interim step but it is not the be-all-end-all solution to the occupancy concern,” he said.

The increase in bed space is not an indication that all is well with the health care system and Hinds cautioned people to remain vigilant in their Covid-19 prevention.

Trinidad and Tobago Coast Guard (TTCG) personnel erect field hospitals at the Couva Hospital, yesterday. These field hospitals will serve as additional space for the current Parallel Health Care System in fighting COVID-19. (Image courtesy TTDF)

Meanwhile, with the death toll rising as well, Hinds said that there is still no information yet on whether any of the local COVID-19 deaths were caused by the Brazilian variant.

Hinds said that information was still being “processed”.

“All of the information on which strain was responsible for the deaths we’ve had so far is still being processed by laboratories and as soon as we do have the update, we’d be able to share that information,” Hinds said.

Hinds said that “genomic testing” was required to determine whether the variant was present and responsible for the increased number of deaths.

“The increased number of deaths is really as a result of the increased number of cases and although we note that we have implemented several measures of increasing levels of stringency, we also want to remind the population that the more stringent of these are still only recently implemented,” he said.

Hinds said that there is no current plan to test people before they are vaccinated.

“That is not considered global best practice or necessity at this time and it is certainly not the best use of the testing zones,” he said.

He said that if a person is exposed just before vaccination, they would still show a positive result after vaccination.

People, he said, will continue to be medically screened before being vaccinated.

The US-based Centre for Disease Control (CDC) recently published a study saying that the Covid-19 virus was found to be airborne.

Hinds advised that people should continue wearing their masks and reducing movement and office occupancy to prevent the spread.

Hinds said that the spike in cases is driven by ill people passing the virus on to healthy people. he said that one person can infect three or four people which leads to the exponential rise in Covid-19 positive cases.