Prof Clive Landis

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Professor Clive Landis, chairman of the University of the West Indies (UWI) COVID-19 Task Force is advising T&T on its escalating COVID-19 cases to “identify your most vulnerable communities.”

Landis, one of the panelists in yesterday’s virtual discussion titled Ethical Issues in the Management of the COVID-19 Pandemic in the Caribbean, hosted jointly by the UWI COVID-19 Task Force and the National Bioethics Committee of Jamaica, commented while responding to a question on how T&T could navigate this period of a sudden spike in cases.

Landis said while he did not presume how to advise the Government of T&T how to manage its affairs, he would speak to the principles that were needed to navigate the current situation.

“We need to have very strong testing. And I would say that based on the number of tests being conducted, which is around 14,000 in Trinidad for the size of its population, testing should be ramped up,” Landis said.

He said more testing was needed to find the cases as they emerged.

He added: “I think that there was no doubt, there was an element of a hidden epidemic that was ongoing and then it emerged.”

Regarding how the pandemic could be managed, Landis said the lockdown and restrictions which were imposed proved to be effective in the first phase of the epidemic in T&T, which helped the country succeed significantly in containing the epidemic.

But currently, the area needing more emphasis was finding out which communities were more at risk.

This advice, he noted, was not only being issued to T&T, rather everywhere in the Caribbean should place focus on this.

“Everyone should think what is the community in my country that is the most vulnerable…that could be overlooked, that maybe has been overlooked,” said Landis.

Pointing to a demonstrative example, Landis said Singapore was managing a very good epidemic for about a first two-three months and then suddenly it had a huge epidemic, which it did not anticipate.

It was subsequently found the reason for the increase in cases was in the migrant communities—a community he said exists also in T&T where its dormitories/households were quite overcrowded.

“When Singapore realised this outbreak had happened in the migrant community, they redoubled their efforts to have a more all-inclusive approach in managing the epidemic and now they have it under control again,” Landis added.

He said identifying these communities, together with a high volume of testing, some restriction of movement—already implemented in most Caribbean countries and applying best practices in hygiene, were some of the principles more Caribbean governments needed to think about in the management of the epidemic.

All while maintaining some economic activity, which he said, was essential otherwise there would be a compounding of all the social problems emerging with the pandemic, he noted.

He reiterated the importance of an all-inclusive approach, as no one was safe or exempted from the pandemic.