Trinidad and Tobago’s goal is to drive transmission of the Sars-Cov-2 virus—the virus that causes Covid-19—down to zero. This, according to the Ministry of Health’s technical director of the epidemiology division, Dr Avery Hinds.
Speaking at the health ministry’s virtual press conference, Dr Hinds acknowledged that achieving zero transmissions would not be easy.
“The goal is, in the initial instance while we still have a certain level “control” over the population status, to get as close as possible to having zero cases in the community, zero cases transmitted,” he said. “Bearing in mind, of course, that one of the problems with this particular virus is the fact that you can have people who are asymptomatic cases.
“So while we think we’re at zero there are actually quiet spreaders. And that is the ongoing risk that we face with a virus that has nearly 50% of its patients being asymptomatic.”
Called ‘no-Covid’ or ‘zero-Covid’, the strategy focuses on the rapid reduction of Covid-19 infections to zero and avoiding re-introduction of the virus through rigorous testing, contact tracing, isolation and travel restrictions.
With Trinidad and Tobago, the zero-Covid strategy is being followed by other countries, including several Asian countries, Australia and New Zealand. In the UK, 42 members of parliament recently supported a motion calling on the government to also adopt its own zero-Covid plan.
But on 22 February, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson rejected the idea.
“There is, therefore, no credible route to a zero Covid Britain or indeed a zero Covid world,” he told parliament. “And we cannot persist indefinitely with restrictions that debilitate our economy, our physical and mental wellbeing, and the life chances of our children.”
But does zero-Covid mean indefinite restrictions? Dr Hinds said current health measures would likely be adapted.
“As we move into the phase of vaccination, as we get additional information on how well the vaccines function to reduce the risk of transmission, we review it, we see what remains necessary and what doesn’t,” he said.
“But the multi-layered approach, the hygiene, the masks, the distancing, the vaccines, all of these things together are parts of the behaviours that we’re going to need to adjust to and adapt to what we call the new normal to reduce the risk of Covid-19 blossoming and ballooning into a widespread epidemic as we’ve seen happen in other countries.”
The restriction not likely to be lifted soon, however, is preventing mass gatherings. That means bar and club owners can expect their doors to remain shut for some time.
Dr Hinds said: “Most businesses are open and the one or two areas of interaction that have been targeted are really the ones that have the highest potential for super-spreader events and the highest demonstration in other jurisdictions of having resulted in multiple cases from one or two index individuals (one or two individuals ill in the first place).
“…The superspreader events need to remain off the table at this time.”
In its latest Covid-19 update, the ministry reported six new cases of the virus, bringing the total confirmed cases since March 2020 to 7,723.
There are 99 active cases in the country, with 14 patients in hospital. State quarantine facilities are housing 365 people and a further 74 are in home isolation.
The death toll is 139 fatalities.
Despite these relatively low numbers, Dr Hinds reminded the population that Covid-19 was still in the country and while that was the case, everyone would need to remain vigilant.
“While we don’t want people walking around with a sense of dread or anxiety,” he said, “we do want them to walk around with a sense of purpose and a sense of protection.”