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Faith B Yisrael

Loyse Vincent

Alternative Secretary for Health Wellness and Family Development, Dr Faith B. Yisrael, says she believes the decision to roll back restrictions in Tobago and Trinidad simultaneously should have been reconsidered, as Tobago’s COVID-19 statistics do not correspond with those of Trinidad. She said while Health officials continue to ignore the “outbreak” at the Scarborough Regional Hospital, positive cases are increasing, healthcare workers are scared and fewer restrictions improve the possibility of spread.

Referring to Tobago’s daily positivity rate for the last week, which indicates that Tobago had recorded a daily average COVID-19-positive rate of 15 cases per day for the last seven days, B. Yisrael said while the numbers seem to be improving in Trinidad, the numbers show that Tobago is going in the opposite direction. And she predicted an increase in cases particularly because of the slow turnaround time for results in Tobago.

“It was clearly based on the numbers. We were not managing the cases speedily enough, particularly since we were getting reports of persons having to wait up to two weeks for results. That means we were not on the same timeline as the ministry when they were doing their epidemiology curve, which basically shows the number of positive cases every day,” she said.

“Tobago’s data was always two weeks later because swabs were being sent to Trinidad for testing. This lag in data collection should have been considered before removing restrictions on the island.

“Those who are managing health in Tobago should have taken a different decision compared to the national policy of starting to open back because our numbers are going in a different direction.”

According to B. Yisrael, an overall analysis of the healthcare system should also have been taken into consideration, “knowing that our situation at the hospital is critical.”

“Just a few days ago, we had the ICU completely full and we have an outbreak at the Scarborough General Hospital and that would critically impair how we respond to the infection and other health care needs on the island,” she said.

She said several errors were made in the overall management of the pandemic, including the delay in ramping up testing capacity last year and pairing Tobago’s data with Trinidad, although “Tobago has to wait for two to three weeks for results.”

During the last TRHA COVID-19 press conference, Ag Medical Chief of Staff Dr Victor Wheeler said the hospital is currently utilising a recently acquired Antigen testing machine which is still awaiting validation. Prior to this, swabs were being sent to Trinidad for testing and emergency cases were tested using genomic sequencing.

As it relates to groups of cases at the Scarborough Regional Hospital, at last count there were 41 cases and four deaths associated with what COVID-19 Task Force member Dr Anthony Thompson called a “cluster” at the Adult Medical Ward. Six additional cases were discovered among healthcare professionals at the COVID-19 Intensive Care Unit, but Thompson said they were unrelated to the cluster and considered one of a “pocket of cases.” There are currently 241 active COVID-19 cases on the island.

Guardian Media reached out to Health Secretary Tracey Davidson-Celestine for a response to several questions, including if she was concerned about the apparent upsurge in positive cases on the island. However, up to press time there was no response.