The zesser party patrons held by police, following the operation in Central Trinidad, on Sunday 22 November 2020. (Image courtesy TTPS)

Rishard Khan

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Technical director of the Ministry of Health’s Epidemiology Division Dr Avery Hinds yesterday again appealed to citizens to avoid large gatherings, especially as the country enters into the Christmas festivities, calling it “Corona Roulette.”

Speaking during yesterday’s virtual press conference, Hinds explained that every citizen needs to see and understand their role in the fight against the virus, especially protecting those they love if not themselves.

“And also to remind you, you don’t know how ill you would get yourself so we’d rather not play corona roulette. This is not the time to play this game. This is the time to try to reduce risks to the greatest extent possible,” he said in an obvious reference to the game of Russian roulette

His comments come in the wake of reports of two large gatherings over the weekend, a wedding in Valsayn which reportedly had over 100 guests and a zesser party in Kelly Village, Caroni with over 250 patrons. The latter was raided by police and its patrons charged for breaching the public health regulations.

According to a police release yesterday, a decision was taken to charge the partygoers by way of summons rather than keep them in cells at police stations to limit the risk of spreading the virus.

The Valsayn wedding was unhindered by the police.

While Commissioner of Police Gary Griffith did not address the wedding directly in a release yesterday, his explanation for their raid on the Caroni party, as opposed to gatherings on the wedding on private property, was: “This is totally different to zesser parties, where organisers are advertising prior to the event, and patrons are paying a cover charge to enter the premise of persons they do not even know, with a cash bar at the event. This takes away the get out of jail free card of it being private property as such the police would treat it as a violation of the legislation.”

But while these two events may fall on different ends of the law, they stand side by side epidemiologically if proper protocol is not adhered to, Hinds said.

“There is no distinction between one type of gathering and another with regard to the COVID-19 risk. The virus does not discriminate between one setting and another if protocols are not followed to prevent the transmission of illness. Those protocols, including the reduction of gatherings to below 10, the physical spacing, the avoidance of gatherings when you are ill, in whichever setting those occur, that would present an epidemiological risk of transmission,” he said.

Guardian Media tried reaching out to the groom on social media yesterday but our message went unanswered.

Large gatherings and congregations continue to occur despite repeated advice from health officials as the country continues its fight to bring the virus outbreak under control.

Yesterday, the ministry confirmed 25 additional infections, taking the number of active cases to 737. According to the ministry’s daily update, the new infections came from samples collected between November 20 and 22 and brought the total number of infected people locally since March 12 to 6,475.

The ministry also released 12 people from its care over the past 24 hours, bringing the total number of people to have recovered from the virus to 5,622.

There are also 642 people in home self-isolation, of which 174 are within the prison system, 43 in hospitals and 28 in step-down/transitional facilities and 158 people in state quarantine facilities. The death tally remained at 115.