HEALTH Minister Terrence Deyalsingh warned that the covid19 delta variant has the potential to overwhelm both the parallel health care system created to deal with covid19, as well as the public health care system.
Deyalsingh reiterated this was all the more reason for people to ensure they are fully vaccinated against covid19 and its variants.
Chief Medical Officer (CMO) Dr Roshan Parasram said the protocols which were able to detect and treat three people who were later diagnosed with the delta variant are robust.
With Trinidad and Tobago's borders open and different sectors of the economy slowly reopening, Parsaram supported Deyalsingh's position on the importance of rigidly adhering to all public health regulations and ensuring as many people as possible are vaccinated, so that a level of herd immunity against the virus could be achieved.
Deyalsingh said, "The ability of the parallel health system to cope with any (covid19 cluster): if you asked me this question three months ago, I would have said the Government has all the responsibility to do this. To add beds, to manufacture nurses, to snap your fingers and create 1,000 more doctors,..snap your fingers and find 5,000 more nurses."
But, he added, "Three months later, in answering that question squarely, the responsibility is not solely with the Government but with the population to be vaccinated."
He said this was the best way to protect the entire health care system, warning, "not only the parallel (health care system)...because in other countries, they are now sending pregnant women home and turning away cardiac patients...turning away orthopaedic patients...turning away people who need this and that...to convert their traditional hospitals to covid hospitals."
That was the fate of TT, if the population, which "now has armour and ammunition at its disposal – a WHO (World Health Organization)-approved vaccine" does not get vaccinated.
Noting TT's limited resources, he said, "We can only provide so much bed spaces. There are no more doctors. There are no more nurses."
He said the health system would try to accommodate as many people who are unvaccinated as possible, but added, "If the delta (variant) becomes entrenched in TT, like other countries...in first-world countries and in the Caribbean..there may come a time, when you may not get that hospital bed, or it may simply run out."
Deyalsingh reiterated this could happen "because the uninitiated who believe in social media...succumb not to the virus but to that misinformation and disinformation and social media."
Between July 15 and August 16, Deyalsingh said, 222,822 people received their first dose of a covid19 vaccine and 173,753 received their second dose.
He lamented that 211 people who died from covid19 during this period were unvaccinated.
Chief Medical Officer (CMO) Dr Roshan Parasram said, "The only way you could have a 100 per cent safety net of virus not coming into any country in the world is to have no movement of people from one place to the next. If there is no one coming into TT...no one leaving, that is the only way that you could have a system that 100 per cent of the time, that there is no movement of the virus. As long as people are moving across borders, they will continue to take with them the virus and the variants."
He said the protocols which allowed the immediate detection and quarantine of three people who entered TT (and were lated diagnosed with the delta variant) are very robust.
"All three cases were persons who would not have been fully vaccinated in coming into the country. So they would have been put in the stream of unvaccinated individuals."
He said these people enter a quarantine scenario, have a a negative PCR test 72 hours before they fly, then go into a quarantine hotel,when they arrive at their destination, for 14 days.
"When we did our seven-day swab on those people, we would have gotten a positive, and those would have been sent, based on the protocol, to be studied at UWI."
Parasram said covid19-positive people from a repatriation flight who are in a quarantine hotel or outside would be treated "as if positive or suspect for a variant of concern until otherwise proven by UWI." Two negative PCR tests are needed before people suspected to have a covid variant are allowed to leave quarantine and go home, he explained, "to decrease the risk of that particular variant."
Referring to the reopening of different sectors of the economy, Parasram said there was a continuing need for people to rigidly adhere to all public health regulations, and their being vaccinated against covid19 will help TT get to a place "where the viral level in the country is as low as possible,"
Should vaccinated people get covid19, Parasram said, the risk of severe disease and death is minimal.