Tobago's covid19 cases have been climbing for the last few weeks despite stringent public health regulations and a state of emergency.
Last Thursday, Tobago registered 52 new cases – the largest daily tally since the pandemic hit.
As of Tuesday, there were 357 active covid19 cases on the island – 37 patients in state isolation, 316 in home isolation and four in ICU.
The Division of Health, Wellness and Family Development reported two new deaths – a 62-year-old woman with no comorbidities and a man, 81, with comorbidities.
The fatalities took Tobago's covid19 death total to 39.
Progressive Democratic Patriots (PDP) deputy leader Dr Faith BYisrael has been expressing grave concern about the rise in cases, noting there was a leadership crisis in the health sector.
She believes asymptomatic patients in home isolation are not being monitored as stringently as required.
Secretary of Health Tracy Davidson-Celestine announced the policy to allow conditional home isolation on June 4. On that day the division said there were 200 active cases on the island.
BYisrael, the electoral representative for Goodwood/ Belle Garden, believes health workers are under too much strain to properly monitor what is happening and patients could be flouting health protocol undetected.
“Additional human resources need to be identified, employees and/or volunteers, to provide better monitoring of patients in home isolation. These can be used to answer the hotline number, contact- trace, and monitor people in home quarantine and isolation," she said.
Although questioning the level of oversight of home isolation patients, BYisrael believes it is the best option.
“This is given that we simply don't have space to continually house large volumes of people who are asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic, but the monitoring needs to be beefed up.”
She also advised the division to provide each home with one oximeter (a device that measures the blood oxygen level).
She believes sample collection for covid19 testing should be mobile.
"Asking primary contacts to come to the facilities to be tested isn’t the best policy."
BYisrael also was not impressed with the speed of covid19 testing.
“We are not picking up and separating positive cases soon enough."
She also said the "delta variant – which is more transmissible – is here.”
Hours after she spoke to Newsday, the division confirmed that the contagious Brazil variant was in Tobago.
Announcing the home isolation police last month. Davidson-Celestine said, "We have revisited the policy to only host those at our facilities of care who are easily considered to be persons at risk at this time: those with comorbidities, those who are over the age of 60, those who are not feeling well and those who might not have the required facilities to isolate effectively.”
At that time, she said the public health team would provide day-to-day monitoring of patients in self-quarantine at home. She said these patients would be equipped with oximeters.
Newsday reached out to Health Secretary Tracy Davidson-Celestine for a response on the soaring cases but she did not give a response up to press time on Tuesday.
At a July 16 news conference, general manager of primary care services at the Tobago Regional Health Authority (TRHA) Dr Roxanne Mitchell reminded patients in home isolation to stay at home.
She said they have been receiving reports of people breaking quarantine.
“Persons being out on the streets, persons roaming – the TTPS has been notified of some of these cases, but you are to stay at home, please. Your clinical monitor, which is different from the contact tracer, would contact you on a daily basis to assess the clinical situation.
"They would also assist you in terms of social assistance in terms of those who require that, psychological assistance for those who need that level of intervention and of course, your clinical interventions on a daily basis – if you need your medication picked up, that kind of thing. You do not need to leave home; we would provide those facilities for you."
She advised patients at home to stay in a well-ventilated area, continue wearing masks and to sanitise their spaces frequently.
On Monday, epidemiologist Dr Avery Hinds cautioned the public to continue to adhere to the public health regulations, as there has been an increase in cumulative numbers of cases over the past three weeks. He said as there is increased movement, with a number of sectors reopening, people need to be more stringent in following the public health regulations to avoid a steep increase in numbers.