RISHARD KHAN
[email protected]

The more infectious and deadly Delta variant has been detected among this country’s population and the Ministry of Health believes there are more undiscovered cases.

But with a largely unvaccinated population, the Minister of Health is not hiding his concern over the strong possibility of it taking hold and beginning to circulate widely.

“If the Delta variant gets hold in what is largely an unvaccinated population, then heaven help us,” he said on CNC3’s The Morning Brew on Monday.

The picture he paints if this happens is a grim reality already being experienced around the world.

“Our hospitals will not be able to cope. We will suffer. The economy will suffer. Our way of life will suffer and other countries which are battling with Delta variant… you see what is happening all around the world and our way out of this is simply to get vaccinated,” the minister stated.

The Delta variant was detected on Sunday in three people among the general population. They are an unvaccinated minor, an unvaccinated adult and an unvaccinated Venezuelan migrant.

While Chief Medical Officer Dr Roshan Parasram was hesitant to label the immigrant as having entered the country illegally under the premise that it was now a matter for the Ministry of National Security, the circumstances he described indicate the person did in fact enter the country through unofficial means. The person was described as someone who “recently crossed the border” and is now in the custody of the Ministry of National Security. However, the Chief Medical Officer pointed to a strong possibility that these aren’t isolated instances based on their investigations into the source of infection which began yesterday.

“It seems to be, at least the primary cases are saying that they contracted it here. If we’re picking it up in that regard, it means that, of course, this virus—Delta virus—would have had to be in the country for quite some time. At least a week or two before you pick up this level of community engagement,” Dr Parasram said.

“So more than likely, it would have been here before because of the random nature of the testing [which allowed them to be detected].”

Delta is not the first variant of concern to be detected locally.

The Alpha variant (B117), first discovered in the United Kingdom, was initially detected in T&T on January 21, 2021, in a repatriated national. However, unlike the Gamma variant (P.1) that originated in Brazil, the Alpha variant did not seed in the population.

The first Gamma variant to be found within the country’s borders came in April. The person was an illegal immigrant in Mayaro. The variant has since begun circulating locally and is most likely the dominant strain, according to health officials.

What is the Delta Variant (B.1.617.2)?

●   First detected in India in December 2020.

●   Estimated to be at least 2 to 4 times more transmissible than the original Wuhan lineage of the virus

●   More severe infection, that is a person is more likely to end up in a hospital or die.

●   May also lead to an increase in cases of COVID-19 in younger age groups and in those who have been previously infected.

●   Fully vaccinated people with Delta variant breakthrough infections can spread the virus to others. However, vaccinated people appear to be infectious for a shorter period.