(Trinidad Express) – Trinidad and Tobago has recorded its first case of the Omicron variant of the COVID-19 virus.
This according to Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh as he spoke during Monday’s COVID-19 virtual press conference hosted by the Ministry of Health.
“This morning, and this is the reason for my concern this morning if people don’t heed the call to be vaccinated, we were informed of the discovery of our first case of the Omicron variant in Trinidad and Tobago. So as we predicted, it was not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when.”
Deyalsingh said the case in question was imported and the affected person is female.
“This person came into Trinidad and Tobago, flight originated in New York, and this is the disturbing part. In New York, the person was allowed to board a flight with a positive PCR test. The person travelled to Panama where they presented a negative Antigen test.
“So a positive PCR test in contravention of our TT Pass regulations, and the Minister of National Security and myself met this morning, we will be providing to the Minister of National Security the person’s name, the airline, because they have some liability in this, and the person for doing what they did.”
He noted that luckily the port in Trinidad helped picked up the fact that this person was allowed to board with a positive PCR test.
“So the last check and balance in Trinidad at Piarco worked, and I want to congratulate our portal officers who again have been doing a wonderful job in screening passengers coming in.”
He said the individual was immediately isolated in a Step-down facility and continues to be isolated.
“In keeping with international protocols, when you have an incident like this on an aircraft, the protocols are that all persons within a two-row radius, which is two rows ahead, two rows behind and two rows to the side, have been quarantined at home. Luckily, all those persons have negative PCR tests, all are fully vaccinated, and they are in quarantine and will be monitored.”
Deyalsingh noted that if citizens continue not to access the vaccines which have been provided conveniently and free of charge, an Omicron wave on top of a Delta wave, bearing in mind that Omicron is more transmissible, can be detrimental.
“With this Christmas with gatherings, with partying, with no state of emergency, if an Omicron wave is layered and now sandwiched with a Delta wave, the consequences for Trinidad and Tobago are in fact pretty dire. One way that we can work together in combating this potential calamity is to do the right thing, which is simply wear your mask, watch your distance and get vaccinated.”
The Health Minister also appealed to parents to get vaccinated.
“We have seen more and more children coming in to our ICUs (Intensive Care Units) and the majority of these children, some have comorbidities, there’s one in ICU now with comorbidities, but one of the common features is the unwillingness of their parents to be vaccinated because they don’t believe in vaccinations. So, they are bringing the virus home, infecting their young children, and many children do have comorbidities.
“But the message is all around the world that the unvaccinated, this pandemic of the unvaccinated is truly, truly getting very deep roots in Trinidad and Tobago,” Deyalsingh said.
He stated further that the country’s healthcare workers are stretched to the limit.
“While you may feel your right not to be vaccinated is there, but think about healthcare workers who you’re going to depend on to bring you back to life, sometimes not being successful because of your decision to be unvaccinated.”
He also warned of a disturbing trend of ICU beds being continuously filled by a majority of unvaccinated patients.
“As of this morning, the 29 ICU level beds in the Accident and Emergency Departments and the 77 ICU beds in the parallel healthcare system, gives you a total of 106 ICU beds. But what is important, is that 68 out of the 77 ICU beds in Trinidad this morning, representing an occupancy level of 88 per cent, of that 90 per cent is unvaccinated.
“Ladies and gentlemen, the burden being placed on the ICU by the unvaccinated is reaching some critical levels, and I’m appealing to the unvaccinated that the level of care that you may expect coming in to this Christmas period and the post-Christmas period, if people continue to make the decision not to be vaccinated, then that level of ICU care that you think is waiting for you, very soon may not be there.”
He noted that of the 94 Covid patients In the Accident and Emergency Departments waiting for transfer, 82 of them are not vaccinated.
“And the majority of these, as we have been alluding to for a couple months now, are being treated at home by remedies not certified, that have no scientific basis. When the ambulance goes they refuse to be transported in a timely manner and it’s only when they’re literally at death’s door that they come into our A&Es, and by that time they are too unstable to be transported to a medical facility, and this is one of the reasons why we have this unacceptably high daily average of 21 deaths per day mainly among the unvaccinated as the figures would show,” Deyalsingh noted.