Chief Medical Officer Dr Roshan Parasram said the BA.5 sub-lineage of the omicron variant was detected in 41 per cent of the samples sent for genomic testing in the last week. He said the variant was only detected in TT the previous week.
At the Health Ministry’s weekly covid19 media conference on Wednesday, Parasram said the BA.5 variant was driving a new wave of infections around the world.
“To date, omicron continues to be the dominant variant of concern in TT, with BA.2 narrowly remaining the dominant sub-lineage at 45.5 per cent of recent omicron samples. BA.4 was detected in 9.1 per cent of recent samples, and BA.5 was detected in 41 per cent of last week’s omicron samples, noting that it was first detected a week prior to that, so it seems to be gaining speed and overtaking BA.2 and BA.4 both locally and internationally.
“A couple of weeks ago, we would have had one delta variant as well, so there seems to be a very low presence detected in circulation.”
Parasram said some of the cases were reinfections. He said it was difficult to quantify the number of people who would be reinfected, especially if they had a mild version of the disease and did not need to seek treatment.
“In TT we haven’t quantified a particular percentage that has been reinfected, but most of the new variants of concern are prone to reinfection. This is why we have stressed on the booster programme and the importance of getting boosted, as another element of reinfection is the element of waning immunity over time.
“Most studies have suggested that you should get a booster every six months, then a second booster four to six months after that. It may not completely prevent infections, but will prevent severe disease outcomes in terms of morbidity and mortality related to them.”
The CMO said there has not been a great increase in cases at the long covid clinics thus far, but monitoring would continue in light of the increase in BA.5 cases.
“Arima has a specific clinic dedicated for long covid, while in other hospitals it has been integrated into the internal medicine clinics.
Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh said the ministry would continue monitoring the numbers of covid19 cases as it had done after the removal of each restriction.
“We monitored after Christmas and New Years when we were expecting a spike, after Taste of Carnival, we monitored when we dropped the TTPass requirement and then the proof of vaccine, we monitored after the two large mass events in the Brian Lara Stadium and Port of Spain, and we will continue to monitor after Sunday. The next two-three weeks, by the end of July into early August will give us an idea of the effect.”
He congratulated the population on continuing to wear masks after the lifting of the mandate.
“Masking remains mandatory in health care facilities. We noticed in the public a lot of people remain masked, and it shows that they are managing their personal risk and doing the right thing. There are the odd people making comments, but the vast majority are taking the thing seriously and I’m pleased and grateful that masks were not ditched wholesale.”
Deyalsingh said he noted that many businessplaces were doing away with the requirements for hand sanitising, and appealed to them to continue inviting their patrons to sanitise.
“It’s not the law, but the three recommendations of wearing a mask, washing your hands, and watching your distance are still fashionable and should still form part of the public health landscape.”
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