Hours after Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley announced the intention to set up vaccine safe zones from October 11, at least two health officials said they were worried that the presence of the Delta variant could spell danger for Trinidad and Tobago.
Speaking during a media briefing at the Diplomatic Centre, St Ann’s, yesterday, Rowley said restrictions in many of the sectors that had previously remained closed would be lifted and they can resume operations. However, only those citizens who are fully vaccinated and can verify their vaccine status will be allowed to patronise these establishments.
Geneticist Dr Nicole Ramlachan has expressed concern that if due care and caution is not exercised, especially with the Delta variant being present among the population, it could spell disaster for the country’s healthcare system, beginning with this week’s long weekend.
In an interview yesterday, she said, “Definitely we can see a surge. That’s what we’ve seen in the past with the Easter, with the Christmas, with the moving around last August with the elections and so on. Definitely, once you have that increase in movement you’re going to see an increase in the numbers.”
Indicating that the risk has been heightened as the country continues to record around 200 new COVID-19 infections cases per day, she said the Delta variant had already proven to be the dominant strain globally and it is most likely to become the most dominant here also.
“It starts off very low and then it literally goes up like this and then it levels off at almost 100 per cent in every single country that it has appeared in,” she said.
“It’s happening in India, it’s happening in Singapore, it’s happening in the UK, it’s happened in the US, it’s happening in the other countries around the world including Canada…so I guess Trinidad eventually.”
Adding her voice to the chorus of officials and religious leaders calling on the population to get vaccinated, Ramlachan added, “We need to be able to understand that vaccination is the only way we can get out of this and get back into normalcy. Even if they open up, you are susceptible if you are unvaccinated. Your child is susceptible.”
Dr Joel Teelucksingh agreed.
“Delta is highly transmissible, with the potential to make younger people seriously ill.”
He urged people to avoid closed and/or crowded settings as he warned, “These are ideal for transmission of lingering viral particles.”
Urging citizens to avoid non-essential gatherings and only meet if they must in an outdoor, well-ventilated area, whilst wearing high quality N95 masks, Teelucksingh said, “Clandestine parties are potential superspreader events.”
However, he admitted, “Vaccinated people are less likely to transmit high viral loads and there is reduced symptomatic infection, hospitalisation and death.”
Addressing concerns about children contracting the COVID-19 virus, especially after a minor was confirmed to have contracted the Delta variant after attending a family gathering one week ago, Teelucksingh said, “Children are less likely to be seriously ill with COVID-19 but are still at risk. No one under 12 is vaccinated here, so adults must ensure mitigation strategies continue,” he said.
“Unvaccinated people maybe eleven times more likely to die than vaccinated people. High-risk individuals with chronic diseases like diabetes, hypertension or obesity ought to be vaccinated too.”
Paediatrician Dr David Bratt meanwhile expressed surprise over recent comments by health officials that children could be superspreaders of the virus and all associated strains.
He said, “While it is true that more and more children are coming down with COVID-19 and being hospitalised with the virus, not here in T&T as far as we know...the children are not dying. The children are not seriously ill. It is clear that it is the adults that are giving the virus to the children, and not the children giving the virus to adults in the vast majority of cases.”