More covid confusion


The embarrassment the Australian government faced last week over the final and messy expulsion of the world’s top tennis player, Novak Djokovic, on the eve of the Australian Open championship was, in many ways, unavoidable. It was a living testament to the fact that the covid pandemic has us all by the nose, running behind it, making policy on the hoof and implementing possibly flawed strategic and practical plans to deal with the truly unexpected. We get some right and we get some wrong.

Governments everywhere are on the backfoot as they attempt to introduce rules that they believe, and with good advice, would lead us out of this almighty mess and into a post-pandemic era.

They are being thwarted at almost every turn by citizens keen to claim freedom but with little sense of responsibility to the rest of society, often guided by narrow interests, mind-boggling loads of misinformation and a deep lack of trust in authority. Currently, there is a surge of the new super-fast variant omicron across the globe – no fewer than 18 million new infections worldwide, just last week. France alone had more than 500,000 new
daily infections – its vaccination rate, though, is over 75 per cent.

Scale those numbers of infections to Trinidad and Tobago and it is clear that we are facing a tsunami, because less than half of our population sees the good sense in getting vaccinated. Omicron is in TT and we should expect it to spike over the next three to four months and to see a lot more people dying.

That is without doubt, since so many of us are oblivious to the extent of our unhealthiness and insist on not being protected against covid. The expectation that omicron is milder than previous variants is just an empty hope. Omicron is reported to be causing hospitalisations, even among the less severe cases, and is linked to deaths, globally. In the UK, for example, which has had a very aggressive and dynamic covid response, deaths have risen sharply and the national health system is seriously creaking.

Two prepositions are at the heart of the controversy over covid deaths. Are people dying “from” covid or “with” covid?

In the UK, covid deaths are monitored by the daily count of deaths within 28 days of testing positive and, for most, the deaths are from covid.

However, a minority of deaths are among people with covid but dying from an unrelated cause in the month after testing positive. There is a sharp rise in these casualties because there is just so much more sickness from omicron and, therefore, deaths a month after having a positive test that involve covid are increasing too. The BBC reported an increase from 110 UK daily deaths within 28 days of a positive test a month ago to 210 now.

In TT, the official Opposition is determined to politicise the covid dilemma and sought the interrogation of the high number of covid-related deaths in our public hospitals – we have among the highest covid morbidity rates per capita in the world. Against a backdrop of disagreement over open funeral pyres, overstretched funeral homes, cantankerous unions, defiant public servants and the seeming hopeless inevitability of a steady rate of daily deaths, the government felt obliged to respond to opposition taunts and appointed a committee to review the management of covid cases and deaths.

TT has been praised for its handling of the pandemic and that’s because we threw everything at it, as other countries did, to the detriment of the public health system that even in good times only copes with our badly-nourished, overweight and indigent population. Taking the shine off that success seems to be the misguided aim.

What would be much more useful is a review of why so many people have non-communicable diseases and how to enable our ambitious public health system, currently so horrendously unable to treat citizens with usual ailments, to function better.

The complaints about under-resourced hospitals multiply daily, but these are universal problems. In the UK, patients within the national health system (NHS) have been unable to get a physical hospital appointment for chronic ailments such as heart disease during the last two years. Emergencies are the order of the day.

The most important review of all, however, is of plans to deal with the imminent omicron surge, which we seem totally unprepared for. Where shall we dig more graves when the time comes, and should we start building emergency hospital facilities now? How are we going to get the remaining 50 per cent of anti-vaxxers to stop their defiance that threatens us all, and urgently?

It will not be popular, but I am tired of people exercising their rights at the dangerous expense of others. I suggest three concurrent health systems, one that refocuses on the endangered regular health system, and two parallel covid systems, one for the vaccinated needing hospitalisation, and another where the unvaccinated sick and dying are treated by the many nurses, and I presume doctors, who also are unvaccinated. That seems fairest.


"More covid confusion"

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