Medical personel in the COVID-19 tent at the Port-of-Spain General Hospital, yesterday.

If you are experiencing flu-like symptoms – get to a doctor and get tested.

This was the advice by Public Relations Officer, of the Trinidad and Tobago Medical Association, Dr Keegan Bhaggan who cautioned, “Right now, it is not going to be possible to distinguish between COVID-19 and the flu from a clinical standpoint so we are going to have to test.”

Speaking during CNC3’s The Morning Brew yesterday, he said once you feel any kind of symptoms including a, “cough, sore throat, runny nose, fever, generalised weakness, you really need to come to a health centre and see a doctor so we can assess it and actually get you tested so we will know if we are dealing with COVID-19 or if we are dealing with the flu.”

He urged the population not to become complacent, and to not assume anything.

With the symptoms for the two closely mirroring each other, Bhaggan said, “Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, don’t assume anything is the normal flu.”

Admitting health practitioners had recorded significantly less influenza cases last year – even as COVID-19 was in circulation, Bhaggan said this was likely due to the implementation of public health regulations to social distance, reduce numbers in public gatherings, and for persons to wear masks and sanitize.

However, he added, “At this stage, you still want to be more cautious.”

Asked if he agreed that COVID-19 was the new flu, Baggan said, “I can understand where people are coming from when they say it.”

But pointing out that COVID-19 was more fatal than influenza viruses of the past, he said with the Delta variant spreading worldwide, “It has increased its ability to infect others and it has increased the severity of the symptoms experienced.”

Likening the COVID-19 pandemic to a war or a battle as the virus constantly fights to improve its configuration – leading to new strains in some countries such as the LAMBDA in South America and the Mu in the UK – Bhaggan said other strains can still emerge meaning, “Realistically, it won’t stop.”

He said vaccines should be considered as one form of armour against the virus.

Pointing to data which showed vaccines are reliable and effective, he said, “We are at war. We are on a battlefield and we have just invented the bulletproof vest and we are giving it out to everybody, so that everybody can have a bulletproof vest for free and some decide to take it up and some don’t.”

For those who have opted not to become vaccinated, he said they could fall faster than those who have protection if they were to become infected.

He urged persons to speak to their doctor about getting vaccinated if they were undecided.

And regarding those leaving T&T to travel abroad to party and socialize, he advised them to be careful as undetected threats exist.

Bhaggan urged them not to let their guard down and to continue exercising strict personal hygiene by wearing masks and sanitizing, as well as social distancing and minimizing contact in crowds as much as possible.