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Dr Joanne Paul

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Despite its limited relevance to local history and culture, Halloween is becoming increasingly popular among Trinbagonians. But with just under two weeks to go until the event, health officials are advising citizens to refrain from celebrating it this year.

Speaking during a Ministry of Health virtual press conference yesterday, Head of the Paediatric Department at the Eric Williams Medical Sciences Complex, Dr Joanne Paul, said: “I strongly recommend that we do no trick or treating. No parties.”

She explained that the movement of people during these activities had the potential to cause what are termed “super spreader events.”

“Imagine, if you will, we go trick or treating with our kids. We go from house to house to house … after we do that, we now have about 100 persons exposed to the same persons. Obviously, we’re transferring the same virus and there is a risk of surge,” Paul said.

The risk is so serious it could spiral the country right back into a lockdown period and “flatten” our economy, she added.

Paul advised families to find different ways to commemorate the occasion which do not involve coming in contact with other people. She suggested going for a hike or having a family game night with members of the household.

Additionally, she said the COVID-19 infection had a different effect on children than on adults and described it as “almost bimodal.” She said children present with very mild symptoms or are asymptomatic.

“The other end of it have been the ones who have been severe COVID or MISC (Multisymptom Inflammatory Syndrome in Children). What happens in those children, unlike adults…they do not present respiratory – rarely so. They present mostly with diarrhoea. They present with their hearts beating much faster because they have a high heart rate,” she said.

She also said some children may present with slower cognitive functions.

“They might have it where they’re totally drowsy, they’re out of it, they might be not talking properly or saying stuff or making any sense,” she said.

Meanwhile, Chief Medical officer Dr Roshan Parasram says the reopening of the economy and relaxing of health regulations can only occur if Trinbagonians follow the rules and behave themselves.

“We all have to do the right thing. We all have to wear our mask, we all have to sanitise, we have to stay away from workplaces and schools when we are ill. We have to do the new normal,” Parasram said.

“The more we can do the new normal as a society, if we can get up to 90 per cent of people doing the new normal all the time, then, of course, we can open larger parts of the economy safely. It really depends on how much the population is willing to give in terms of conforming to the new normal.”

Asked by Guardian Media whether he believes citizens have been responsible enough through the current second wave to allow a reopening of the economy, Parasram said: “A large majority of the population has been compliant with the public health regulations. We are learning a new behaviour over months – the world, not only Trinidad. I think we are getting to the place that we can reopen safely. Much more so than we’d have been able to maybe in March or April.”

He noted that the more compliance there is with the protocol, the quicker the economy will be able to reopen. However, he chose not to comment on the advice given to Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley by the ministry so as not to “pre-empt” any of his decisions.