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Emergency medical technicians mill around ambulances parked outside the Couva Hospital and Multi-Training Facility after dropping off COVID-19 patients yesterday.

SHARLENE RAMPERSAD

[email protected]

Trinidad and Tobago two COVID-19-related deaths in the space of several hours yesterday, even as the Ministry of Health reported there had been 22 more cases, taking the overall tally to 426

The ministry first reported that an elderly woman had become the ninth person to succumb to virus yesterday morning. The ministry said the patient had pre-existing medical conditions.

The release noted that while Chief Medical Officer Dr Roshan Parasram was informed of the woman’s death around noon, the information was not released to the public until the woman’s family were informed. The ministry sent the release on the death around 3.05 pm. The woman’s identity was not released as the ministry called for her family to be allowed to mourn in peace.

T&T’s last COVID death, then the eighth overall, was recorded on April 6. At that time there were 105 positive cases.

The ministry also rubbished rumours that five patients had died at the Caura Hospital on Thursday. A screenshot of the post claiming the deaths had occurred was attached to the release, with the ministry labelling it as “Fake News” and warning the public not to share false information.

Shortly after 7 pm, however, the ministry reported a second death. The patient was said to be an adult male with pre-existing medical conditions. The ministry again gave no details of the man’s identity or age.

In their 10 am update yesterday, the ministry said there were eight new cases, bringing the total number of active cases of the virus to 265 and the overall positive cases since the virus hit T&T to 412 to date. But by its afternoon update, the ministry said there were 14 more new cases, bringing the total number of cases to 426 and the active cases to 277.

With the number of cases rising and Parasram announcing earlier this week that he expected another spike soon, citizens were becoming concerned about whether the parallel health system could cater to the influx of new COVID patients.

On June 4, the ministry issued a release stating there were a total of 948 beds available in the parallel health care system set up to deal with COVID-19. The release stated there are 542 hospital beds for the ‘clinical management and treatment of COVID-19 positive patients only’ and 406 beds were listed as being available for quarantine and isolation.

Questions were sent to outgoing Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh and Parasram asking what contingency plans are in place if the parallel health care system becomes overwhelmed. At 5.26 pm, Deyalsingh responded to earlier questions sent via WhatsApp, advising that questions should be sent to the corporate communications department of the ministry. He did not respond after being told the questions had been sent to the head of that department, Candice Alcantara and no response was forthcoming. Parasram was contacted via phone and WhatsApp. He did not answer the phone call and read the WhatsApp messages but did not respond.

However, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley is expected to address the nation today on the situation, where it is expected he may announce some rollbacks to help curb the rapid local spread of the virus.

Meanwhile, although the Ministry of Health has been releasing cumulative figures of tests done over a period of time recently, the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) says it has not delivered any results more than 48 hours after samples were received from T&T.

In a release on Thursday night, CARPHA said, “To date, the number of samples with more than a 48-hour from reception at CARPHA and pending remains at zero. As of Tuesday, 11th August 2020 the number of samples tested totalled 13,815. None of the results of these samples has been delivered past 48 hours after receipt of the samples.”

Also according to CARPHA, T&T has submitted 13,815 test samples as of Thursday night. But in the ministry’s 10 am update yesterday, it reported sending 12,616 samples for testing by CARPHA and the University of the West Indies (UWI) testing site- a difference of 1,199 samples.

CARPHA said backlogs and prolonged wait times for results can complicate efforts to reduce the spread of the virus.

“A delay in test results can mean a setback for public health authorities to decide on a course of action – to implement contact tracing, provide appropriate care and guidance, or to inform someone that they have not contracted the virus. CARPHA is determined not to delay the time it takes for people to get their results, and consequently, the CMML does not retain possession of backlogs in its facilities,” CARPHA said.

The agency said it continues to adhere to good laboratory practices to produce accurate results.

“Our testing strategies and cadre of well-trained staff work to ensure that there is no backlog for tests or pending results. We know that timely reporting of laboratory results is important as it can make a difference to Member States,” said CARPHA’s head of Laboratory Services and Networks, Dr Gabriel Gonzalez-Escobar.

Escobar said the results of COVID-19 tests are issued within 24-48 of receipt of samples.