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A car leaves the National Racquet Centre step-down facility in Tacarigua with a COVID-19 patient on Wednesday night. Scores of patients there were the first to benefit from the Ministry of Health's new policy to allow mild COVID-19 patients to quarantine at home while recovering.

SHARLENE RAMPERSAD

The Trinidad and Tobago Medical Association (T&TMA) says it supports the Ministry of Health’s move to allow COVID-positive patients with mild or no symptoms to quarantine themselves at home.

In a release on Thursday morning, the association said with an unprecedented rise in COVID-19 cases (1,429 in total, with 820 active cases according to ministry data released Thursday morning), it recognises that the country is on the verge of a crisis of capacity to treat with patients who have severe symptoms.

On Wednesday, Chief Medical Officer Dr Roshan Parasram announced changes to the ministry’s admission and release policies for treatment of COVID-19 patients. Those changes now allow those with mild or no symptoms to quarantine at home so hospital beds can be reserved for those with moderate to severe symptoms.

On Thursday, T&TMA public relations officer Dr Muhammed Rahman said home quarantine was one measure in the drive but noted that if the public fails to adhere to the Public Health Guidelines to stop the spread of the virus, the death toll could rise rapidly.

“The fact is that our health care system can only treat so many people at any point in time. This virus spreads rapidly and we are at risk of an overwhelmed health care system if our numbers keep rising. We will see people of all ages die, not because there was nothing more we could do, but because there was no more room to treat them – as was seen internationally,” Rahman said.

Rahman said wearing a mask and frequently sanitising hands has been proven to decrease the spread of the virus but too many people were still ignoring the guidelines, as he warned that many people could consequently suffer.

Also noting infection among medical staff tasked with treating COVID-19 patients, Rahman said it is difficult to balance safety and precaution against the burn-out among essential workers and a potential collapse of the health care system.

He also defended health care workers’ efforts, saying, “We note with disdain the unsubstantiated attacks that some have purveyed against many who have struggled tirelessly for the benefit of our country. Our gratitude and support lay with our Chief Medical Officer and his office, as well as all the healthcare staff who have tirelessly served our needs over the last six months, in particular, especially those who have contracted the virus themselves.”

He urged health care workers to practice self-care and protect themselves and their families.

The association also sent out an appeal to the public to treat every person as though they may be infected with the virus.

“We urge you to imagine every single person you meet outside of your home as infected with COVID-19 but without symptoms. Please – wear your masks properly, keep your distance from others, clean your hands and as much as humanly possible, stay home. We have many fingers to point blame, but that is all irrelevant in the face of our common enemy, COVID-19.”