THE PASSING of 900 covid19 deaths this week was a grim reminder of the need for all sectors to hold strain, especially with multiple variants looming, testing capacity still limited and the vaccination programme hindered by supply problems.
While deaths are slowly declining on average, after a period in which they remained at a worryingly high and unyielding rate, the current figures suggest if things do not improve drastically, we will cross the 1,000 mark in a few weeks, if not days.
In this context, the authorities have been astonishingly blasé about the threat posed by the delta variant, which surpasses the alpha variant in terms of transmissibility and its potential to overload hospitals.
“The pre-existing strategies hold,” said state epidemiologist Dr Avery Hinds last month when questioned on the need for any special measures to combat this challenge, assuming it is a new one.
Principal medical officer of health Dr Maryam Abdool-Richards said there was no evidence of the delta variant in TT up to last month.
Officials seem nonplussed by the fact that the World Health Organization has found the delta variant in almost 100 countries, including Aruba, Barbados, Brazil, Guadeloupe, Martinique, Puerto Rico, Saba, and St Maarten.
While the State is confident controls at airports, such as PCR test requirements, will minimise risk, many remember how the Brazilian variant emerged in this country at a time when borders were formally closed, reportedly through a Venezuelan individual.
Back then it was revealed that not all covid19 cases are subject to the sampling done by university laboratories to detect variants. If this is still the case, it is likely variants will remain under-reported for some time yet, which has implications for how we interpret the available data.
It is simply the case that we cannot afford to be complacent. The global situation is changing rapidly, throwing up all sorts of uncertainties, as demonstrated by the emergence of the lambda variant, which has a strong presence in neighbouring South America. Preliminary studies suggest lambda might render some vaccines ineffective.
At the same time, there are signs an epidemic of covid19 fatigue is skyrocketing locally.
There is agitation from the business community about being forced to remain closed. Some are making increasingly brazen attempts to get around health regulations which limit who can open for trade.
While certain sectors, such as the construction sector, have reopened, the private sector as a whole continues to lose out in the absence of substantial grants.
It is becoming increasingly hard for the State to justify keeping public-sector workers employed while letting private companies and their employees bear the brunt of the pandemic.
If we are to hold strain, we are going to need more help.