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COVID-19 patients leave the Racquet Centre in Tacarigua Wednesday night.

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The recent decision by the Ministry of Health to alleviate the burden on the parallel healthcare system is being lauded as a step in the right direction by at least two experts, given the current COVID-19 caseload in the country.

Chief Medical Officer Dr Roshan Parasram has announced that the ministry will now allow milder cases of COVID-19 to quarantine at home and use a clinical discharge criteria instead of the diagnostic criteria previously used to determine discharge criteria as they seek to free up space in the hospitals for more severe cases of the virus.

Addressing the decision yesterday, Virology Professor at the University of the West Indies, Dr Christopher Oura, said it was a global trend.

“This is what’s happening around the world in many other countries that have community spread. Really, basically, you can’t afford for everybody that has the virus to be taken into the health system because it just overflows your hospitals.”

He said the current format would be a more efficient allocation and use of resources.

“You can afford when you have less cases to be taking everybody into the healthcare system. It’s critical at that point…but this (decision) is about the amount of cases that we now have and I think it is a decision that governments have to make at a time when they’re seeing their health services, their hospitals, fill up,” he said.

Up to last evening, there were 867 active cases within the healthcare system, down from 1,204 on Wednesday after over 600 cases were transferred to home quarantine under the continuous monitoring of the respective County Medical Officer Health (CMOH) offices.

Oura assured the new discharge criteria is safe with a minuscule chance of the virus’ transmission.

“This is following WHO (World Health Organisation) regulations and following the regulations, many countries across the world are following and it’s based on science,” he said.

Internal Medicine specialist and host of CNC3’s “Ask the Doctor” Dr Joel Teelucksingh also believes home quarantine will have a positive effect on patients’ mental health.

“A lot of persons would find that it would be a less stressful experience being away from work and being away from a social environment. If they have pets and having family members just around just to hear a voice – a friendly voice­—would go a long way towards the healing process,” Teelucksingh said.

However, both experts warned that the home quarantine for milder patients also places further responsibility on the shoulders of citizens to ensure the virus is not transmitted.

“You’d want to be separate from your family if possible. I know in some environments in which the socio-economic status may differ, it would be harder for persons to ensure social distancing but that does not change…you may want to put on your mask if you are in a common area and you’re staying within the confine of a bedroom. If possible, you can use your own bathroom,” he recommended.