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Dr Roshan Parasram, Chief Medical Officer, atysterday’s news conference at the Eric Williams Medical Sciences Complex.

Rishard Khan

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Chief Medical Officer Dr Roshan Parasram yesterday predicted a spike in COVID-19 cases due to the public’s refusal to fully cooperate with the public health guidelines aimed at preventing its spread.

“In light of the recent movement of individuals and somewhat non-adherence to the public health guidelines, we expect to see an increase in the number of cases in the next few days to weeks,” Parasram said during yesterday’s Ministry of Health update on the virus, even as the country recorded another 26 positive cases to take the overall number of cases to 326.

Parasram did not single out any event for contributing to this spike but noted it occurred over the past two weeks.

However, in an interview with Guardian Media on Tuesday, internal medicine specialist Dr Joel Teelucksingh said the group behaviours seen over the election period created a “petri dish” for infection spread.

While anticipating the spike, Parasram was unable to predict what its magnitude would be.

“No one can predict for sure what is going to be the outcome. If you have a crowd of 1,000 people gathering and no one has COVID-19 or COVID-19-related symptoms—obviously out of that one event nothing would happen. However, if you have a crowded situation where you have a number of individuals or positive cases roaming around in that environment, you’d get an explosion of cases about a week later,” he explained.

In light of this, he said the ministry has ramped up treatment of patients to get them out of the parallel health care systems and into step-down facilities.

“We are trying to get our hospitalised patients into step-down facilities as quickly as we can—which we have done before—anticipating a greater need for hospital beds,” Parasram said.

Principal Medical Officer Dr Maryam Richards said both the Couva and Caura Hospitals are currently at close to 50 per cent and 40 per cent occupancy.

Guardian Media understands that on Friday, 35 to 40 patients will be decanted from Caura to Tacarigua, bringing down occupancy in the former to between 9 and 14 per cent. Some 40 patients will also be decanted from the Couva facility to Balandra today, bringing down occupancy to 21 per cent.

Agreeing with Parasram during a Zoom interview with Guardian Media, virologist Dr Christopher Oura believes these cases would begin to manifest themselves over the weekend. However, he too was unable to predict the magnitude of the spike but advised citizens to adhere to the ministry’s advice and be extra vigilant.

“We have this virus in our midst and we don’t know the extent of the spread so we need to take, very seriously, all the measures the Ministry of Health is saying…it’s really important that the general public in Trinidad and Tobago play their part,” Oura said.

Against the backdrop of the virus’ continuous spread locally, Technical Director of the ministry’s Epidemiology Division, Dr Avery Hinds, urged citizens to not take any flu-like symptom lightly.

“We are urging anyone if they are ill not to go to school, not to go to work, not to go to any of the other gatherings they would have gone to but to isolate themselves at home from their families as well, following the precautions such as hand washing and staying in your room and not sharing utensils and spaces even within the household,” Hinds said.

“If the symptoms are more serious and require medical care, we encourage you not to hesitate to seek that care. So, muscle fatigue, tightness of the chest and shortness of breath, any of those things, definitely do not remain at home with those things, definitely go out and seek care.”

Since July 20, there have been almost 100 cases requiring epidemiological investigation. Hinds said the ministry’s investigations have discovered links in approximately 64 per cent of those cases. The ministry said yesterday’s 26 cases included results from tests done as far back as August 4.