An appeal is being made to pay closer attention to the care of the elderly who are at a higher risk of contracting covid19, health officials have advised.
An official at a health institution on Friday said children could be carriers unknowingly as the symptoms do not generally manifest themselves because of their more robust immune system.
“We are seeing that children are not getting sick as compared to older people. The data shows that one in six elderly people who gets the virus dies. We have a culture in TT where when we go to work or do anything; we send the kids to their grandparents. A lot of grandparents across the country are at risk because most children do not show signs of the virus. They do not show signs of being unhealthy. Even if they don’t have a runny nose, their fingers are in their nose and mouth and they are touching every surface.
“Only elderly people and people with immune systems that are compromised die from this. That is the story that needs to be told that people should not send their children to their grandparents.
“The children do not show any signs and don’t even get sick and that is probably why countries with younger populations like Africa are not showing any symptoms because everybody is young. China and Japan have elderly populations; that is why it is impacting them so much. The Caribbean has young populations where the elderly people are at risk. We have to protect them.”
The official was critical of the media in not warning about the risk to the elderly “People are running and buying toilet paper and not thinking about their parents. If the public is not aware that they are not supposed to go to old people’s homes unless they bathe and wash. The media is not doing a good enough job to highlight that old people are at risk. If there are a lot of the children in the house you have to separate the old person from them. No matter what you do, children, like adults, are going to touch their faces. What you have to do is keep your hands clean. Managers at these homes have to be reminded that they have to protect their patients. Because you have no symptoms does not mean you are not infected.”
Medical chief of staff at the Eric Williams Medical Sciences Complex, Mt Hope, Dr Malachy Ojuro, said self-isolation was best for the elderly. He said homes for the elderly were very exposed to visitors.
“That is a big challenge. Old people’s homes have to be very careful. It also depends on the structure of the home where each resident has their room. They should restrict visitors as much as possible.”
Ojuro said children could be a challenge because they can be asymptomatic and can spread the virus to the elderly.
Specialist obstetrician/gynaecologist Dr Sherene Kalloo had on Thursday called for schools to be closed. The Prime Minister announced in the Parliament on Friday that all schools and universities will be closed for one week.
“I think the susceptible ones who are being listed as the victims are the older male population who have pre-existing medical conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, kidney and heart problems.
“People are missing out on the homes for the elderly as one of the places it (covid19) may manifest itself. Again it comes down to the point of being able to ensure that your visitors are aware that they have to practise proper hygiene which would mean putting on the face mask, washing their hands before touching the family member.
“Keeping in mind we don’t know much about this virus, if you look at the history of the H1N1, all of the research is showing this virus can be in someone and not manifest itself and you could be a carrier. You go hugging and kissing, which is a practice we are no longer doing, or you go too close to the person who is susceptible.”
Kalloo said people might be offended when told about handwashing and no hugging, but that was the least of our worries at this time.
“You have to be selfless, not selfish, and it’s not about you, but about the person who is susceptible to the infection which are the elderly. Children are not as affected in terms of symptoms as the elderly, but the children are the carriers of the infection.”
“We need to be more proactive and learn from the mistakes of the other countries so we close the schools and avoid the children being the carriers and taking it home to the older folks. Jamaica has closed its schools, but is it too late? We don’t want to wait until there are six cases before you decide, you have to do it now. You have to bite the bullet and do it.”
During a news conference at the Health Ministry’s head office, Park Street, Port of Spain, on Saturday, the Health Minister said covid19 affected the elderly much more than the young. He made a special plea for the elderly. “We want you around. I want to see you next Eid; I want to see you next Divali, next Christmas. I want you to see your next grandchild. You can do that if you work with the Government.