COVID can’t stop Carnival

Port Of Spain, Trinidad – Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley on Thursday assured there was no need to change COVID-19 protocols, impose new restrictions, cancel Carnival or close the country’s borders despite an increase in cases and hospitalisations.

He asserted that the population was now highly immune, with about half vaccinated and a large portion of those unvaccinated population having been exposed to the virus and therefore acquired natural immunity.

However, he stressed the importance of personal responsibility, especially during Carnival next month.

“The country’s open but there’s COVID out there. Take personal cover, you know what you can do the list of things that you can do. Do those things that you can do,” the Prime Minister urged at a press conference with health officials on Thursday morning to update the country on the COVID-19 situation in the twin-island republic.

At a press conference to give on Thursday morning, health officials reported that between January 2 and 9, there were 406 new cases and eight deaths were reported January 2 to 10.

Professor of molecular genetics and virology at UWI, Christine Carrington, also reported said that four cases of the Omicron XBB 1.5 variant, the most transmissible variant of COVID-19 yet, have been detected here.

However, Prime Minister Rowley suggested the situation was one that could be handled through vaccination and people doing the right thing to prevent spread of the virus.

“The situation in Trinidad and Tobago at this time does not warrant an intervention outside of those basic provisions…. We are facing the prospect of increases in terms of infection levels, and you would have heard from Dr Carrington that we do have in Trinidad and Tobago, as usual, everything that exists outside in the wider world. We are, therefore, not approaching this phase of existence by trying to shut out that which is already with us.

“We in Trinidad and Tobago have discovered in our population all the variants of concern to us and, of course, the one that is causing the most of the problems in the United States is already here with us. So when people ask you to close the border, that is not a necessary response at this time. Our response has to be to suppress the spread of what we have amongst us,” he said.

Rowley added that while it is possible that, because the virus is still mutating, another variant “can come up that can have characteristics that will cause us to have to think differently”, that was not the reality at this time.

“As of now, given the nature of the population, given the immune response that we’ve had, given the suppressing effect of vaccine programme and the natural immunity that we have built up, we are now facing a situation where we can continue to operate without the level of fear and distancing that we did before which caused us to close our border, shut down our schools and so on,” he said.

Addressing the question of the upcoming Carnival, the Prime Minister said: “The nature of Carnival is meeting and mixing. We do not believe that the situation warrants us to not have Carnival, but we believe that it warrants us taking personal decisions about your exposure to minimize instances of requirements for healthcare delivery to you”.

Principal medical officer Dr. Maryam Abdool-Richards also advised persons participating in Carnival activities to be “personally responsible” and to take the best measures to protect themselves.

During her presentation, she disclosed that there had been an increase in COVID-19 patients requiring hospitalisation since last month, noting that 90 per cent of them were not fully vaccinated and they had significant comorbidities.

As of Thursday morning, there were 71 patients in the parallel health system, including five requiring intensive care and two paediatric cases. (CMC)

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