Public health restrictions announced by Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley three weeks ago have been extended until July 4, while the state of emergency could be extended for another 90 days. This means that restaurants, malls, beaches, gyms, places of worship and bars will remain closed, while non-essential services are still prohibited.
The public health regulations were die to expire today,
“The date has been reached but the expected condition has not been reached. In fact, it has been worsened, so we are now looking further down the road. We are looking at the 4th of July,” Prime Minister Rowley said at a press conference at the Diplomatic Centre yesterday.
Dr Rowley said he was not prepared to give any definitive marker or timeline for the rollback of the regulations as that will likely create unnecessary speculation. However, he said, the more disciplined and cooperative the public is, the sooner that date will be.
“It doesn’t mean we are going to be in this situation for 90 days. We will revoke it as soon as that is the prudent action to take, whether it is one month after, six weeks after, or whatever time. We will want to come out of it as quickly as possible . . . but we will have the legal ability to go for 90 days,” he said.
Epidemiologist Dr Avery Hinds said it is too soon to tell if the state of emergency has yielded the desired effect by reducing the number of cases.
“A week post the SOE announcement you don’t have enough time just yet to make an assessment whether that very recent intervention would have been very effective or not. It usually takes two weeks to show whether an intervention begins to take effect,” he said.
According to Principal Medical Officer Dr Maryam Abdool-Richards, the ministry is seeing an increasing number of new cases, but the gap between admissions and discharges has been closing over the last four to five days.
Hospital occupancy reduced slightly to 70 per cent, she said.
“The seven-day rolling average as Dr Hinds said, continues to increase. We are at 508 (cases). The daily admissions, we actually saw a decline in that trend recentlymwithin the past week,” she said.
“Do not become comfortable with the very small decline in hospital occupancy. This is because of an increase in the supply of hospital beds…but our resources remain strained.”
Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh assured that at least 10 per cent of the population will be vaccinated by August. He said he was encouraged by the vaccine confidence being shown by the public, with 1,936 people getting vaccinated on Friday.
“The overall objective as we stand now, given our current vaccine availability, is to vaccinate 134,000 persons with both doses of either the Astrazeneca or Sinopharm vaccines by August 31st…that is a pretty good place to be by August,” he said.
Dr Rowley expressed confidence that the country will receive more vaccines by August.
“Our target is 60-70 per cent of the population and that is restrained only by the unavailability of the vaccines. But, we anticipate that availability issues will recede as more vaccines either come into commercial availability or through distribution by those who have been holding on to them,” he said.
He appealed to landlords to show empathy at this time. With reports of increasing evictions in recent days, the Prime Minister admitted the government cannot legally control landlord arrangements.
“What we are asking for is empathy, and for people who are doing that, I just want today to say to you – think of all your family members and ask yourself, if there’s any member of your family in another country, somewhere, who is in that situation and how do you feel about them being treated like that?” Dr Rowley said.
“Certainly, we cannot ask landlords to provide for free forever…let us say this is an intervention we are hoping is a short one…where the government can act, we will act…but there are some things the government cannot be expected to do,” he said.
There were 509 new COVID-19 cases reported by the Ministry of Health in the last 24 hoursand 17 deaths.