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The Couva Hospital.

The number of COVID-19-related deaths and cases continue to climb, as the country recorded 171 positives and three additional fatalities yesterday.

The newly-identified infections came from samples collected between April 17 to 19 and represent the highest number of confirmations since November 22 with 126 cases. It’s also the fifth-largest number of people to be confirmed as infected since the outbreak began locally on March 12, 2020.

The highest number of cases to be reported was on September 17, 2020, with 217 cases. This is followed by 202 cases on September 18, 197 cases on September 8 and 190 cases on September 4.

Since April 1, the country has recorded some 1,109 cases and 15 deaths; the majority of which came in the last seven days. From April 13 to present, 694 cases have been recorded, along with 11 fatalities. There were two deaths on April 14, two on April 15, three on April 18 and one on April 19.The newly-confirmed infections bring the number of active cases to 982, the highest the country has seen since October 30.

The alarming increase comes just one day after the revelation that the more infectious Brazilian SARS-CoV-2 variant of concern (P1) could be circulating among the local population, following its detection in a person from County Nariva/Mayaro on Monday (April 19). It’s also roughly one month since the Chief Medical Officer Dr Roshan Parasram indicated the Ministry of Health began screening local samples for variants of concern, after it noted a faster than anticipated spread through the country.

Cases began to slowly climb in early March after dipping to an all-time low since the country’s second phase of infection first started on July 20, 2020. By April, the cases began to spread more rapidly. Cases virtually catapulted coming out of the Easter weekend and have been on an upward trajectory since.

Members of the public notably had heightened fears about whether the Government could contain the spread.

Internal medicine specialist Dr Joel Teelucksingh noted the trend as “very troubling.”

Citing the Easter period while commenting on the incidence of deaths, he said, “The death rate usually spikes in the second week after infection…this is happening at present. The elderly and those with chronic diseases are at increased risk of severe COVID-19.”

The increase in cases was why the Government reinstated restrictions on April 15 for the second time this year in an attempt to curb the virus’ spread. Beaches were closed, in-house dining was prohibited in restaurants, cinemas, casinos and bars and the number of people allowed to gather in public was brought down to no more than five. The restrictions are in effect until May 9. Two weeks before on April 1, the Ministry of Health reimplemented a ban on contact and team sports as cases began their climb.

Despite the new cases, the ministry was able to inoculate 19,475 people up to 4 pm yesterday.

Vaccinations, Teelucksingh said, would be the country’s way out of the pandemic.

“This surge is a grim reminder that there is little immunity to SARS-CoV-2. A robust vaccination campaign after a faltering start is our best exit strategy to the pandemic.”