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Pedestrians on Frederick Street, Port-of-Spain, yesterday.

Trinidad and Tobago is in the midst of a third wave of COVID-19 infections, Minister of Health Terrence Deyalsingh said yesterday.

Speaking at the Ministry of Health’s COVID-19 media briefing Deyalsingh explained that epidemiologists have deemed the rising COVID infections and deaths as a third wave of the pandemic since the rolling seven-day average of cases is now over 500-plus.

T&T experienced its first wave of COVID-19 infections in August/September 2020, followed by a second wave in June/July 2021.

Yesterday, the country recorded ten additional deaths and 404 new COVID cases. This took the active cases to 8,695, with hospitalisations at a record high of 539 patients seeking care.

Deyalsingh said as part of his ministry’s effort to better manage this latest wave as the Delta variant continues to circulate, the ministry will be coordinating the role the five Emergency Operations Centres (EOCs) will play in the deployment of resources and personnel as the demand for treatment increases.

Deyalsingh again encouraged citizens aged 12 and over to get vaccinated.

He said while vaccination remains voluntary, “in this current wave, it is now imperative that even for the vaccinated, that the three Ws also apply.”

“Don’t let your guard down, even if you are vaccinated at this time,” Deyalsingh said.

Reminding people to wash hands, wear masks and watch their distance, he said with the Christmas festivities afoot, citizens should “avoid social gatherings as much as humanly possible.”

For the unvaccinated, he had these words of advice: “It now means without the extra level of protection that a vaccine gives you, it means that you have to be doubly and more stringent in your hand-washing, masking, your social distancing. It means you literally have to be only outside for really important tasks like working, going to the pharmacy, going to the grocery, because you are unvaccinated.”

He added, “That is a choice you have made and we understand that, we respect it.

“We may not agree with it but we respect it.”

Saying private hospitals have not been debarred from treating COVID-19 patients, the Minister added, “Home treatment for COVID is not recommended at this point in time.”

Meanwhile, Principal Medical Officer Dr Maryam Abdool-Richards has confirmed that there are two paediatric COVID-positive cases at hospital, one of whom is in the Intensive Care Unit.

On Saturday, the ministry revealed the death of a little boy from COVID-19 but declined to reveal any further information due to patient confidentiality.

Dr Abdool-Richards again urged citizens to continue practising strict health regulations in an attempt to ensure the protection and well-being of children.

Deyalsingh said herd immunity currently stood at around 45 per cent and called on persons to make sure they took steps to protect children under 12 years who cannot access vaccines.

And with the ICU capacity currently at 88 per cent in Trinidad and 71 per cent in Tobago, Abdool-Richards said between 11 to 44 per cent of patients require ICU care on any given day, and this demand is increasing.

Recording an increase in the numbers of patients in the parallel healthcare system, which reached 539 yesterday morning, Abdool-Richards said, “This is the highest recorded number. In our last wave, the highest overall recorded number was 627.”

Lamenting the delay those ill with COVID faced to access treatment, the PMO said an official spent close to an hour on Sunday trying to convince the relatives of a sick patient to present for treatment at the A&E for care but was unsuccessful.

She said some patients were continuing to present too late for treatment, often decreasing their chances of surviving.

Eastern Regional Health Authority CEO Ronald Tsoi-a-Fatt also confirmed they have been recording an increase in positive COVID-19 cases, especially those seeking care at the ICU and HDU.

He admitted there had been a decline in vaccination levels but said the ERHA continued to go out to communities to reach residents, especially as there was a push to reopen beaches and rivers.

Meanwhile, the Health Ministry revealed that the 12 new ventilators recently procured were distributed across the parallel system within three days last week, costing approximately TT $1.8 million.