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Dr Maryam Abdool-Richards

As Trinidad and Tobago recorded its largest number of infections since the start of the pandemic in T&T, health officials are sending a strong warning that young people without comorbidities are dying from the virus.

Four people, including a 42-year-old man, are among the latest victims, pushing the toll to 189.

The Health Ministry yesterday announced a record 399 new infections.

Health officials are now signalling that the parallel healthcare system has only seven more days at this rate before collapsing as the number of positive active cases reached 3,024 up to 4 pm yesterday.

As she implored younger people who were not previously adversely affected by the virus to heed the warnings, Principal Medical Officer (PMO), Dr Maryam Abdool-Richards said, “Young people, we are seeing deaths and sudden deaths from the 30s onwards. Please don’t think you are immune.”

She sought to drive home just how dire the situation is now as she spoke during the Ministry of Health’s media briefing yesterday and referred to COVID-19 as the great equalizer as it was no respecter of class, education, age, sex, nationality, ethnicity and financial status.

“This concept of a bubble that I have been hearing touted around does not work,” she said, adding, “Different persons from different households carry different exposure risks, so by you saying you will be liming, or zessing, or wessing, or whatever term you want to use with the same group of persons…while you are interacting with persons at the supermarket or at your workplace, it means you have a different level of exposure.”

Abdool-Richards urged the populace to listen to the advice from health official, saying this could save their lives and that of their loved ones also.

She lamented the long lines of people seen buying food in Woodbrook on Monday, some of whom were not wearing their face masks properly.

It was a heartfelt plea that Abdool-Richards made as she went on, “I am asking everyone to stop the co-mingling, stop the mixing of persons. It is becoming overburdening to our health system and it may impact on the treatment of your relatives.”

“Our ward occupancy rates have increased within 24-hours from 50 to 60 per cent which is a ten per cent increase, and our ICU occupancy rates have decreased from 50 per cent to 40 per cent. I’d like to reiterate that the decrease in ICU rates is not due to the discharge of patients at the stepdown but unfortunately, due to the deaths of patients.”

She said hospital occupancy moved from 48 per cent on May 3, to 50 per cent on May 4 and to 58 per cent that very evening.

Up to 9 am yesterday, there was a total of 264 persons hospitalised, with 42 more awaiting admission. This figure was expected to increase by last evening.

The PMO said patients displaying mild symptoms were now requiring hospitalisation from three days onwards, while those requiring intensive care needed between 12 and 21 days of hospitalised attention.

“The High Dependency Unit occupancy had increased overnight from 40 per cent to 70 per cent,” Abdool-Richards said.

She reminded the population that hospital beds were a finite resource.

Meanwhile, 115 more beds were added to the system on May 1, while the Augustus Long Hospital has been transitioned into yet another facility to treat this group of patients.

Reporting that a total of 542 out of 1,700 beds with supporting staff had been available to treat COVID-19 positive patients from the beginning of the pandemic, Abdool-Richards said if numbers continued as they are it would take seven days to fill the remaining 226 beds as there were 316 patients in hospitals up to 9 am yesterday.

A repatriation flight with 89 persons from Canada was expected to arrive yesterday while a 120-passenger flight from Barbados is scheduled to arrive tomorrow which will focus mainly on the safe return of university students.

Meanwhile, a flight from Miami is scheduled to bring in a further 140 people on May 15.

With Mother’s Day due to be celebrated on May 9, Abdool-Richards said, “We would not want to lose our mothers, our sisters and our daughters prior to Mother’s Day, and given the trend of persons being hospitalised and persons who are dying on a daily basis, we need to have personal responsibility and be vigilant. Let us be our relative’s keeper. Let us be our neighbours’ keeper and our co-workers’.”

Asked to say if the P1 variant (Brazilian variant) could be the cause of the increased morbidity rates T&T is now recording particularly among the younger demographic, epidemiologist Dr Avery Hinds said there is no concrete evidence that it was “affecting younger persons in a preferred or preferential manner.

“But what we are seeing is a wide cross-section of the population being affected,” he said.