The government is bracing for the impact of the covid19 B1 (delta) variant reaching in Trinidad and Tobago.
Chief Medical Officer Roshan Parasram says it is only a matter of time until TT detects the variant – which can be four times more transmissible than the P1 (Brazilian) variant.
To cushion the impact, the Ministry of Health has devised a plan. This includes a mass vaccination for all workers in the health sector, in every category, next Friday.
Speaking at the mass vaccination site at the National Academy for Performing Arts, Port of Spain, on Friday, Parasram said, “We are trying to get in front of the delta variant, if we could get our immunisation coverage up very quickly.”
On the arrival of the 800,000 Sinopharm vaccines the government bought from China, the Ministry of Health set a target of administering up to 25,000 doses a day. Currently, the ministry has fallen short of its target by 5,000.
The delta variant has already been detected in 124 countries. In the Caribbean, the variant has been found in Barbados and the Cayman Islands, among other places.
Parasram said one person infected with the delta variant can infect up to eight people.
Countries battling the new variant have reported astronomical numbers of deaths and hospitalisation, with up to 80 per cent of patients requiring intensive care.
Parasram reiterated his call for unvaccinated people to accept the vaccine to help the country prepare and deal with the delta variant.
“It’s a highly transmissible virus that we have to be prepared for. But we have a defence this year. We have a vaccine that is safe and effective, recommended by the World Health Organization…As we prepare for delta, the only way to get out of it is to get vaccinated as quickly as we can, to get us all safe to the place we want to be.”
Parasram said if the delta variant manages to exhaust the parallel health care system, TT would have no choice but to revert to strict measures to contain its spread.
But Minister of Health Terrence Deyalsingh said the country cannot continue to go into lockdown mode, every time there is a surge of covid19 cases to save lives.
“We are not waiting for the delta variant to reach here to prepare the health response," he said. "I chaired a meeting on Thursday with the Caribbean Public Health Agency, Pan American Health Organization, and all five regional health authorities to alert them on what we need to do, as a country managing a health system, to respond to the variant.
:Because delta will reach. It’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when.”
Part of the planning includes border control and the mass vaccination of health care workers as one way to prevent the collapse of the parallel system.
“Do we continue to go down this road and leave people to suffer? Is that the legacy we are going to leave?
"I say that we must not accept this future of an unvaccinated world. That future is untenable and unsustainable.
“We must reopen schools, we must reopen businesses.
"It simply means doing the right thing at the right time and the right thing to do now is to take the vaccine and be vaccinated…If the delta variant moves, as it did with the P1 variant, we are in trouble."
Deyalsingh asked those who are hesitant to take the vaccine, “If not the vaccine, then what? We recognise you have a free choice, but with freedom comes responsibility.”