CMO: Testing strategy a success; T&T Covid-19 positive rate drops below 1%

The Ministry of Health today reported seven new confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the country. The daily rolling seven-day average for new cases is now below three cases per day.

Speaking at the health ministry’s virtual media conference, chief medical officer Dr Roshan Parasram said that low case numbers were not a reflection of any change in testing.

Photo: Ministry of Health chief medical officer Dr Roshan Parasram prepares to face the media at a virtual press conference on 7 May 2020.
(Copyright Ghansham Mohammed/GhanShyam Photography/Wired868)

“Our protocol has remained the same throughout the epidemic,” he said. “We are testing persons that present to our facilities with symptoms of any sort, and we had also given some discretion to the CMOHs (county medical officers of health) to test primary contacts of known cases although they had no symptoms as well.”

He added that the positive rate, which shows the share of tests that return a positive result, had gone down significantly.

According to Our World in Data, the Oxford University-based website that tracks global Covid-19 statistics, Trinidad and Tobago’s positive rate is now 0.9%. It has fallen steadily after having peaked at nearly 50% in September 2020.

Dr Parasram said that the government’s testing strategy was aligned to the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) testing strategy and has been working successfully.

In May 2020, the WHO published criteria to advise countries on how to adjust public health and social measures as the Covid-19 pandemic changed. In it they wrote that the epidemic was controlled if a country recorded ‘less than 5% of samples positive for Covid-19, at least for the last 2 weeks, assuming that surveillance for suspected cases is comprehensive.’

The WHO explained that ‘the percentage of positive samples can be interpreted only with comprehensive surveillance and testing of suspect cases, in the order of 1/1000 population/week.’

So far, T&T’s positive samples have stayed below 5% of all tested samples for most of 2021. Testing has also been between 1.33/1000 to 3.29/1000 of the population per week.

The CMO said there were no plans to expand general testing of people who showed no symptoms of the disease.

“What we had done at certain stages is widen the actual testing of persons who are primary, secondary and tertiary contacts and with the discretion of the CMOH, which they have that discretion, that they can actually test asymptomatic people who they think are a significant contact of a known case,” he said.

“Especially with the low numbers, we can widen it a little bit because we want to catch all the possible cases so we can get that number staying as low as we can for as long as we possibly can.”

Photo: Testing for the coronavirus Covid-19.

The total number of positive Covid-19 cases recorded since March 2020 is now 7,743. Of these, 94 are currently active cases, with 10 patients in hospital and 5 in step-down facilities.

There have been 140 fatalities since the first case was recorded.

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