The COVID-19 death toll stood three away from the century mark yesterday after the Ministry of Health confirmed one more person had died. The 97th victim was an elderly male with pre-existing medical conditions.

However, the ministry also confirmed just one additional infected person – the lowest number in one day since the second phase of infections started locally on July 20 with case 139. The ministry noted, however, that the positive cases reflected the samples taken during the period October 16-18 and not the last 24 hours. The new case brought the total infections since March 12 to 5,298.

The number of active positive cases also decreased as 44 people were released from the ministry’s care – six discharged public health facilities and 38 from home self-isolation as recovered community cases. There are now 1,505 active cases with 1,372 in home self-isolation.

The update also indicated that 96 people were tested for the virus within the last 24 hours. However, this is a significantly low daily average when compared to the 600 or so tests which the ministry said it was conducting during the peak of the second phase in August. Chief Medical Officer Dr Roshan Parasram previously explained that the low daily sampling was due to a low number of people presenting for tests.

Asked by Guardian Media about any plans to expand the ministry’s testing structure during yesterday’s virtual press conference, Parasram said a similar surveillance method to that for HIV could be employed.

“Testing hospitalised patients is one sort of opt-out therapy that we have used for HIV as a way to do population-level surveys. So it’s one way we can do some testing as well additionally,” Parasram said.

“We haven’t gone into it as yet but it’s being explored to some extent. So that is one avenue you can look to where you may get persons presenting with other types of symptoms. For instance, cardiovascular disease, cerebrovascular accidents, where we have seen in some instances we have gotten some positive cases. So it may be worthwhile to explore that avenue.” —RK