STEPHON NICHOLAS and KINNESHA GEORGE-HARRY
Secretary of Health, Wellness and Social Protection Dr Faith BYisrael has warned Tobagonians not to let their guards down despite a decline in covid19 infections and deaths in January. The island experienced its deadliest month of the pandemic in December 2021 with 71 deaths. As the New Year approached, the island grappled with approximately 1,400 active covid19 cases and the Scarborough General Hospital and morgue under immense strain.
But although there were a record six deaths on January 2, the number of fatalities decreased gradually as the month progressed. Deaths declined by almost 60 per cent in January while active cases dropped by almost 75 per cent. The month ended with 30 deaths and just 383 active cases.
In an interview with Newsday on Friday, BYisrael said there were a number of factors that led to the decline.
“Several things happened. If you recognised, covid infections usually happens in waves – going up and then coming down. So we are coming down from the last wave…That is one component we’ve recognised.
“We have also implemented in the health care system some additional medical professionals who are able to help in the management of critical covid patients. That may also be why we are seeing decreasing.”
BYisrael said the population must be wary about the effect of the omicron variant which health experts say is more transmissible than delta. “It is important to note that with omicron coming on board, we may see another wave going back up shortly, so let’s not be too surprised.”
Asked how the establishing of omicron as the dominant variant would affect Tobago, BYisrael said, “The data seems to be showing that omicron is milder than delta – but milder is a relative term, and milder does not mean mild or asymptomatic.
“But omicron being milder, we may have less deaths than delta overall, but when we look at infection rates, it is supposed to infect more people. More people being infected in a population that does not have a high vaccinate rate and significant rate of comorbidity, a milder variation may not be to our benefit. Which is why we are still encouraging people to get vaccinated.”
BYisrael said the covid19 care review committee has been also assessing the Tobago Regional Health Authority (TRHA). She said interviews of the island’s health professionals have been taking place and a virtual walk-through of the facility was expected.
Commenting on the decline in covid deaths and cases, Minority Leader Kelvon Morris said he was thankful.
“I am quietly optimistic with what appears to be both a reduction in both the death rate month on month, as well as infection rate. We are all connected in some way in Tobago and therefore every life lost to covid19 is a tragedy to us all.”
Referencing his 11-point plan to tackle covid19, Morris said his proposal was presented to the covid19 task force last month. BYisrael told Newsday that some of the measures were already being implemented by her division.
Morris said, “I always felt strongly that a clear plan of action and strategy was required to fight back against this deadly virus and I am truly happy to see that we are reaping the fruits of those actions in which the secretary must be complimented.”
Morris cautioned residents against acting irresponsibly. He said, “We must continue to follow all the health protocols that have been instrumental in assisting us to weather the storm of this raging virus. I want to specially recognise our health care professionals who continue to stand in the gap, sacrificing their lives to save the lives of our fellow men. I am on record as saying, that I will support fully a special one-off monetary remuneration for our frontline covid19 health care professionals in Tobago.”