Black Immigrant Daily News
Trinidad and Tobago’s Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley says there are no plans to cancel Carnival or introduce lockdown restrictions similar to what was implemented in 2020, following a recent increase in COVID-19 cases in the twin island republic.
Speaking at a media briefing on COVID-19 at the Diplomatic Centre on Thursday, Dr Rowley said there’s no need to close the country’s borders as the relevant variants of concern have already been detected within the country.
Dr Rowley said, however, that while there’s no need to panic just yet, the public must pay attention, be responsible and practice health and safety protocols.
“We are, therefore, not approaching this phase…by trying to shut out the virus which is already with us. We have discovered all the variants of concern…the one causing trouble in the US is already with us.
“[The rise in positive cases is] happening…to a population that is vaccinated. It’s possible that somewhere down the road another virus or variant may pop up that may cause us to have to think differently, but [for now] we can continue to operate…we will proceed to live with COVID,” Rowley said.
He said what’s important is that the most vulnerable populations follow health protocols and get vaccinated.
Professor of Molecular Genetics and Virology at the Eric Williams Medical Sciences Centre Dr Christine Carrington said the XBB.1.5 variant was first detected in the country on December 10 and last detected on December 22, and that its appearance is consistent with global trends.
She said US experts have noted that the XBB.1.5 variant may contribute to an increase in case incidents globally, but more research is needed.
She also noted that based on laboratory tests the variant appears to be more resistant to antibodies, meaning they are less sensitive to antibodies produced via the vaccine or previous infections, and therefore might be associated with more reinfections, she said this is limited only to laboratory studies and not real-life situations.
She also emphasised that based on current data the COVID-19 vaccine is 92 per cent effective at preventing serious illness and death.
“The immune response consists of more than just the antibodies that block infection and the experience to date with other antibody-resistant variants is that the vaccine continues to be very effective against severe disease and death.”
She added that the information on whether XBB.1.5 has more severe symptoms compared to other variants is still being compiled and analysed.
Principal Medical Officer Dr Maryam Abdool-Richards said although there is capacity within the parallel health system and a ‘hybrid system’ which has been set up within the RHAs, there has been an increase in the need for hospital beds.
She said as of Thursday there were 71 people needing hospital beds, 90 per cent of whom were unvaccinated with comorbidities.
She also noted a number of incidental cases where a person would come in for another issue and test positive for the virus.
Epidemiologist Dr Avery Hinds said if the cases continue on the current trend they can go into the low hundreds next week and the high hundreds the week after that.
Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh said they have received a positive response to their COVID and influenza vaccination drive and urged vulnerable groups, especially those with comorbidities and in the case of influenza, children and pregnant women, to get vaccinated.