A pleasant good morning and welcome to the Ministry of Health's update on the national COVID-19 response for Wednesday 12th January twenty twenty-two. Our panelists for this morning's update are the honorable Terrence Dialsing, Minister of Health, Doctor Miriam Abdul Richards, principal medical officer institutions and Doctor Avery Hines, technical director epidemiology division, Ministry of Health. I am Al Alexander, senior corporate communications officer in the Ministry of Health and the moderator for this morning's update. Doctor Richards will begin with the latest clinical update for the parallel healthcare system.
Doctor Richards, good morning. Good morning. Thank you very much. Al. Good morning to the honorable minister, to my colleague Doctor Heinz, to all members of the media, and to everyone who has joined in regionally, locally and internationally. This morning, I'd like to present the update in two parts. I'll start with the information on the COVID-19 dashboard number nine hundred and sixty-six As of the 11th of January, 2022, and then I will provide a brief update on the status of the parallel healthcare system as of 8 AM this morning. as per COVID dashboard update number 9 hundred and 66 There were an additional five hundred and forty cases recorded. This now takes the total number of active positive cases to sixteen thousand two hundred and twenty At present, there are six hundred and sixteen patients hospitalized in the parallel health system.
And this number accounts for persons in the hospitals as well as the step downs. I will give you a breakdown of the persons as of this morning. Unfortunately, an additional 20 deaths were reported yesterday. And this now takes the total number of persons who have succumbed to covid-19. To 3 thousand 102. And we extend our sincere condolences to the families and friends of the deceased. The honorable minister will provide further information on the vaccination status. But at present our population has a a forty-eight point 3% rate in terms of full vaccination. I'd like to now shift the presentation to a summary on the status of the parallel healthcare system. This morning, there are six hundred and thirteen persons hospitalized in the parallel healthcare system. Across Trinidad and Tobago. 480 of those persons are in the hospitals while one hundred and thirty-three are in the stop down facilities. And this us an occupancy level of 69%. Now, I'd like to share with everyone that the trends that we speak about in our press conferences have been consistent for the past eighty-five days.
The trends that we have noted include high occupancy levels which means that the hospitals continue to have many severely and critically ill patients being managed COVID-19. We've also noticed that in the intensive care units which take care of our most ill patients, they tend to be most filled. And this morning, across Trinidad and Tobago, the ICU occupancy is 83 percent. In Trinidad, 63 of the 71 beds are currently occupied and in Tobago, three out of the nine available beds are occupied. There are 96 patients across the four accidents and emergencies who are being treated for covid-19 and at at the RHS I'm sorry in being treated for covid-19. And of those 23 are ICU level patients. Ladies and gentlemen. This situation in the hospitals in the parallel healthcare system continues to be very serious. We are now proceeding on an 85 day trend.
We have the Omicron variant, you know, being introduced through travel into our country at this point in time. And globally, we have seen the impact of COVID-19 and new variants of concerns such as the Omicron on the healthcare system and ultimately the population. We continue to inform the public of the status of our hospitals so that you can make informed decisions regarding vaccination. Vaccination continues to be a safe and effective way to reduce the risk of being hospitalized. Even if you do get covid-19 and requiring ICU care. We also would like to inform persons and to continue to request that if you are confirmed with COVID positive or you have covid-19 symptoms, please seek medical attention early. And please desist from using medications or therapies that are not approved by the Ministry of Health. Ladies and gentlemen, this brings an end to my short presentation. But as I leave, I would like to to encourage you to please take up on the offer of vaccination. Thank you very much and over to Al.
Thank you very much Doctor Richards. I now invite Doctor Hines to provide the latest covid-19 epidemiological update. Thank you Mister Alexander. Good morning to the honorable minister, to my colleague, Doctor Abdul Richards. Good morning to members of the media, members of the viewing and listening public. If we go straight to my second slide, I believe it is. We can in the epidemiology update and we begin by looking at those weekly trends that we have been tracking since the start of the pandemic.
This current frame shows all of twenty twenty-one and the first two weeks of 2022 as we progress. And what we're seeing is that the red buzz which are the ones just to the right side of the of the graphic. Uh those bars for the weeks in December. We do that that last week in December seemed to have a big drop but that big drop as we kept as we keep saying it's more likely due to smaller numbers of people accessing care during that holiday period and with what we saw therefore is unaparent rebound to more of the on-trend decrease that we are seeing for the first week in January so that green bar that follows is closer to the height of the bars that we expect around this in time. So we are seeing a slow and hopefully we will be maintained ah downward trend in the week to week. But we want to juxtapose that against the ongoing looming threat of the introduction of a highly transmissible variant.
The Omicron variant. And the potential for large increases as has been demonstrated in other countries. Moving to the next slide that basically just shows the week on week ah changes and the percentages for those who are keeping track ah numerically and what we see is that compared with week 52 of 2021. Week one of 2022 had a 53% increase. But as we said that's really just a rebound from those artificially low ah figures that we may have been seeing in week 52. We will see what week two of 20 twenty2 brings in terms of establishing a direction for the current trend. If we move to the next slide we see the same data now aggregated at a monthly level. And what this he shows us is in number of cases that would have been accumulated month by month for all of 2020 and so far sorry for all of twenty twenty-one and so far for January of twenty twenty-two. Um note December has had the highest total of cases that we've had for the pandemic and that's twenty thousand five hundred and thirty-eight. Uh much higher than November which was the previous record holder. November had 14, 032. We will see what trend brings for January.
But to date with just a week and a half or so. Gone in January of twenty twenty-two. We've accumulated nearly 6, 000 cases. So the rates haven't dropped significantly. And we do want to continue to encourage the population to adhere to all of the preventive guidelines to help to reduce the rates of transmission. And beyond the preventive guidelines to adhere to the protective advice and protective resource that we disposal in the vaccinations. Which as Doctor Abdu Richard said help both to reduce your risk of hospitalization and your risk of fatality. So we do want to drive that point home yet again. If we move to the next slide we look at the demographics of those positive. And those haven't changed significantly even with the increasing numbers.
The shape of this graphic has maintained itself and we continue to see that the largest number of individuals is in that 25 to 14 nine year age group and the male female balance is just about equal. Right now we have forty-eight point seven percent men among the positives. And fifty-one. 3% women. If we move however to the fatalities, we do note that the pattern is a little different on the next slide. And that pattern shows that there's a predominant of the fatal outcomes in those over 60. And beyond that in data not shown on this graphic. We continue to re says that those risks are higher in individuals with pre-existing comorbidities and also the risk is higher in those who are not vaccinated. So we want to continue to encourage those who have been vaccinated and who are due for their boosters to make sure to get your booster as scheduled to keep that immune response as strong as possible. Those who have not yet been vaccinated want to encourage you to be vaccinated as it reduces your risk of death significantly. as we look at the threat of ah highly transmissible variant getting into the population.
We do want to take every precaution that we can to reduce our own personal risk. And the risk to those around us. So with that I'm going to conclude the epidemiological update and turn you back over to Mister Alexander. Thank you very much doctor Heinz. And now Minister Dial Singh will provide us with the latest vaccination figures and address current issues relating to the national covid-19 vaccination camp beam. Thank you very much Al. Good morning to doctors Richards and Doctor Hines. Good morning ladies and gentlemen of the media and all persons viewing and listening wherever you are. Uh good Wednesday morning. I'll start off by just giving the vaccination numbers updated as of last. Last evening. Persons who have access two doses of a two dose vaccine. Or one dose of the one shot and done G and G vaccine. Six hundred and 7 seven thousand and twenty persons, which represents about 48. 4% of the population.
So we are we are going up in increments of point one percent per day. yesterday we did notice a slight dip. We were averaging roughly between a Monday and a Friday. of around 15, 16 hundred doses per day. Uh yesterday, we dipped the one thousand three hundred 2. Let's hope this is not the start of a pattern but let's hope this is just a blip on the screen and that we could get back up to around fifteen, 16, 17 00 and hopefully as much as 2, 000 a day. So, we could increase in increments of more than point 1 percent Ah at the point1% is about fourteen hundred Ah considering a population of one point four million. The numbers of persons who are who have accessed their booster shots. That continues to climb by about 2, 000 a day which we are grateful for. It's now ninety-four thousand two hundred and fifty The number of posts, the number of public sector officers who we are tracking are the two sides dedicated to public officers at the campus government plaza campus and Sapa now stands at one thousand five hundred and ninety-six.
Um so that's a good sign. But remember some public officers are accessing vaccines at other sites where we are not tracking that particular data. Uh so that the state of play with vaccinations? Can I have this slide a body booster program please? I want to reiterate to the public the need to be boosted. And the need to be boosted is particularly important now. With the global threat of the Omicrum variant which for those who are paying attention to international news. You will see the Omicron variant is surging dramatically. In in other territories. Um countries are seeing COVID positive cases that they have never seen in two years. We are now in some countries reaching new heights that have never been reached before. And all the evidences suggesting that one of the best ways to protect yourself against the Omnikram variant is to be boosted. Is to be boosted. So the message is for who have already received their vaccination schedule whether it's AstraZeneca or Sinopharm between the first of July to the 30th of July.
Your schedule started on the 8th of January and will run until the 5th of February. All of this information has been published in the newspapers. It is on the Ministry of Health's website. And we have blasted it or put it out on social media. So those who receive AstraZeneca and Sinopharm between the first of July to the 30th of July, please go and get boosted as soon as possible as you schedule allows. For Johnson and Johnson, if you receive your dose between the seventh of November, and the seventh of December, you can go and get boosted again between the 8th of January, which we started last week, Saturday, and the 5th of February.
And you can be stood with either Johnson and Johnson or sinopharm. for some reason a person in the last cycle missed their missed their timetable to go in during the month of January to be boosted. You are quite welcome and we encourage you to come in and still get boosted. So these simple messages if you missed the schedule weeks that you were supposed to be boosted in January. Come and get boosted. And for those who are due to be boosted between the 8th of January and 31st of January. And the eighth of January to the 5th of February sorry, come in and get boosted. Boosting it has been proven worldwide to be effective at giving you that further layer of protection especially with the Omnikrom variant. So, please come in and get boosted and I'll thank you very much and we can now take questions. Thank you very much, Minister. So, our media representatives are reminded to state their name and the name of the media house that they represent. They would be invited to post two brief questions in the first instance.
Please identify the panelist to whom you wish to address each question. Time permitting, we will accommodate a second round of questions. Please note that during this segment, we will be taking a few questions submitted by the media association of Trinidad and Tobago. Relating to the national COVID-19 campaign. We will take our first a question from the Newsday. Right. Morning. Clint Sean. Talk of news. Stay here. Um my questions are for anybody on the panel who can answer them. Uh firstly, is there any sound or scientific justification that you could find regarding the call by not to to close all covid-19 safe zones. Um because they are contending for some reason that this is actually increasing the spread of COVID rather than the opposite. And secondly at the same on an event hosted yesterday. They brought forward. Three people who claimed to be experiencing adverse effects from covid-19 vaccines.
So and that in that context are those cases concerns of these persons. Are they have they been confirmed to be legitimate and is the or is this perhaps some kind of subtle way of pushing a a non-vaccine type of agenda rather than raising genuine the kinds? Okay, with respect to the first part of the question. Uh there is no logical or scientific basis on which to make the claim that the measures to reduce risk during public interaction would be conversely increasing the risk of transmission. What you would see is that if the measures aren't adhered to, if the people trying to find loopholes to escape the various requirements that that would increase the risk but we are going to hope the doers aren't in the majority and to reempha is that all of the requirements for the operation of a safe zone are basically added layers of protection to reduce the risk of an infected individual being in a gathering space in the public while trying to allow for some measure of economic activity and social activity in the midst of the pandemic.
So any attempt that we make, any restrictions or requirements that are put in place to reduce the risk of positive individual interacting cannot lead to an increase. So that that the science behind that doesn't doesn't really make a lot of of sense. Now let the minister respond to the second part of the question. Thank you. I just want to add something because you asked a very good question about NATA score to close down safe zones. I would think as a country we are happy that people are being employed in safe zones. I think as a country we should be happy that are finding ways as we say to live with the virus, to co-exist with the virus.
Um I was quite taken aback by that call because who is going to pay the rents? Who is going to you know put food on the table if we take that court to shut down safe zones. So it's a matter of if I could paraphrase what Doctor Hines is saying. Risk and reward. And at this point in time the reward of having people employed in a safe environment far out re whatever risks there are. To the other part of the question, because you you phrase, you phrase the question properly. Was this genuine or not? So first of all, if it is genuine, we express our concerns. But we have no way of knowing. Because no medical evidence was put forward. There was no doctor's certificate. There was no medical evidence put forward. and that is complicating the conversation unfortunately. And I am hoping that the same way causation was tried to be made with two early deaths a gentleman from Princestown and Franklin Can.
Trying to unfortunately link their deaths. To the vaccine. Which was mentioned on the MFO report as leading to vaccine hesitancy. I'm hoping that these unconfirmed reports and what we would appreciate is the medical evidence, the doctor's certificates that demonstrate or that make a causal link and when I'm finished with my answer, I want Doctor Hines to talk about the difference between correlation and causation. Because two, just because two things happen, close to each other. Which is correlation does not necessarily mean causation. So he would talk a little bit about it. We do have at the Ministry of Health and have had for decades a reporting system to report adverse events brought about by vaccination and immunization. It is not new. What is new is the public interest in it for which I am happy about. So there are three pathways to which we trace these events. Path one is something called E S A V I. It's an acronym which simply means events supposedly attributable to vaccines or immunization.
We also have another pathway AEFI. This is coincidental events. And adverse events of special interest AESI. How do systems work. There are three pathways that we track this. Over the decades, but as I said, because of COVID vaccines and the renewed interest. So if a patient has come down with any adverse event, not side effect, not necessarily peanut, the injection site or simple fever which is resolved. Uh event private sector doctors over the years, report that to the county medical officer of health. Those reports then go to Doctor Heinz's unit, National Surveillance Unit, and it is copied to the expanded program of immunization. It also goes to the Chief Medical Officer and Paho. And depending on if what is being manifested by the patient is an un adverse event not listed in the literature that is put out. It is also reported to the manufacturer. So that's a private sector pathway. In the public sector if you go to an A and E or a clinic it will be reported in the same fashion. Um, through the A and E, the community liaison unit, the public health observatory, it goes to Doctor Hines's unit and so on.
So they are clear pathways for any patient who suffers an adverse event or an unusual adverse event that the doctors and nurses in both the public sector and private sector can send these reports and they will be treated with. So what is interesting is that I I am I am not doubting the the veracity that's something may have happened. But in the absence of a medical certificate stating what happened, it is difficult to make a determination. I will now hand over to Doctor Hines to further clarify the difference between correlation of two events and causation. Okay, thank you minister. I believe you did creditable job in in making the initial distinction. And that is really that you may have two events that occur in relative proximity with respect to time. One happening after the other. But just because that's the sequence does not mean that the thing that happened first necessarily was responsible for the thing that happened. Second. And what would be needed in order to establish that causal link would be really some specialist review of the sequence of events, the types of symptoms, the actual unfolding of the medical event and the test results that would suggest whether or not this is actually related to the pre-existing vaccination event or not.
So there's a lot of additional specialist review that would be required to make that sort of determination. Nonetheless wants something like that is reported. It is clearly one of the things that will be investigated. But while that is happening what we would like to encourage is that individuals not take these reports unconfirmed or otherwise as a reason not to access the vaccination program. Because as I believe you had pointed out recently we've had more than 1. 3 million vaccine doses administered. In that time frame. And by contrast we note that three and maybe every 100 individuals who get the virus will have a fatal outcome. So if we have a small number of adverse events that haven't yet been confirmed out of 1. 3 million, it is clearly much of a higher risk to have the virus than to have the vaccine.
We want to encourage people to continue to be vaccinated because it's definitely providing protection against serious illness and against death. Thank you very much minister and doctor Heinz. We move to TV six for your questions. Good morning. Good morning Alicia. Good morning. Good morning. I just want to follow up on on Clint's question. Now Minister you mentioned the absence of a medical certificate and so on. But one of the claims made by one of those persons would have been she tried to get health officials to report the matters on adverse event. And they refused to do so. So much so that she had to reach out to Pfizer herself. And Pfizer responded. So I wanted to find should we be concerned at least about our claim that it it that event or those events were not being reported to Paho and WHO and what could be some of the reasons as to why health officials would not report such incidents.
So that's my first question. Second question is based on that NATA press conference as well. Um Mister Anna said called for a vaccine compensation fund minister. Um well the establishment of one at least. And I wanted to find out what is your take on that? you. So let's deal with the first issue. Again I I I just want to reiterate that I do not doubt that something may have happened. But in the absence of confirmation it is difficult only impossible to verify the claims being made. Whether the claim is that the vaccine did a BOC or whether the healthcare professionals did not do their job. It is impossible for me. What I can say is that if you ehm if you have the names and addresses on phone contacts of those individuals, we will be more than willing to contact them and uncover the facts.
I think facts are important in dealing with this, rather than claims. Um, I am not downplaying it. We take it seriously, but we need the facts of the matter. So that's my response to question number one. On Question number two, this is not something that I will say only to on the air. This is something that the government will have to consider. Look at the merits, demerits, and proceed. But the conversation now and it and it's unfortunate. That with 20, 30 deaths per day. The conversation in this country is not about getting more people vaccinated. We have had no known deaths and I just did a rough calculation Between first dose, second dose, and boosters. We have administered one million four hundred and forty-four thousand one hundred and seventy-one doses of vaccines. One point four four million. One point four four million with no deaths attributable to vaccination. But every day and 30 people are dying. So unfortunately, the way the conversation has now been framed in the public domain is that vaccinations are something not to be trusted.
And I don't know why that agenda is being pushed. But declare evidence around the world is that vaccination does three things. Because people are asking for guarantees. There are no guarantees. What vaccination does and it promises of vaccination is one is significantly reduces your chance of being infected. And being able to transmit. Two. Significantly decreases your chances of ending up in a hospital and an ICU. And when you look at the dashboard we print every day. The last tile shows you that the vast, vast majority of deaths are amongst the unvaccinated. So if I could use this opportunity Alicia to respectfully ask that we all refrain reframe not refrain. Reframe. R E F R A M E. Reframe the discussions. About the beneficial aspects of vaccination. It saves lives. And with the Omnikrum variant it is showing that boosting is now we need as a society all players and all members to be pulling in the same direction because we are not tug of war with the virus.
We are pulling one way the virus is pulling another way. But if all of us don't pull in the same direction against the virus the virus will win. The virus will overcome us. The virus will overwhelm the healthcare system. lives will be lost, livelihoods will be lost. So if I could just ask the national community and every player, every leader in the national community to pull together against the virus and frame our conversations around the beneficial effects of vaccination. The fact that we must continue to wear a mask because I am noticing when I walk and drive through areas That the population seems to be tired of wearing masks and social distancing and so on. But those things are still important. And there's a growing worldwide tendency amongst the vaccinated. Not only internal Tobago. To think that once you are vaccinated you no longer have to wear a mask and take precautions. No. If I could just give you an analogy and I'm sorry to be so long but I think it's important.
When we travel abroad to the wintry. countries. You put on layers of clothes. You just put on a jacket alone. You put on a shirt, a sweater, you layer up. So think about the public health measures as layers to keep you warm. But then your final, your final protection, that heavy coat you put on. That is vaccination. So let us layer three W's vaccination and we could do very very well with this pandemic. Thank you very very much and I apologize for being a little bit long but think it needed a long answer. Thank you very much. Understood minister, one oh three FM, we are ready for your questions. Good morning. Good morning, everyone. This is Sierra Chandu from 103 FM. Uh both my questions are for the help of minister. Uh first of all, is the health ministry or the CMO's office regularly following up or checking on these private labs or that are accredited to do PCR testing.
The reason I ask is we have a report of a lab mixing up results. So, the lab sent the person a positive result but called and said that he was 100 percent negative. when he persisted in asking if they were sure they did a check and admitted to an error and that he was indeed positive. My second question, there are persons, citizens who do not have the idea of even a birth certificate.
So, what do these persons do if they want to be vaccinated? Thank you. Thank you. So again, the the issue you raised about this one person, it is difficult to verify that type of claim. I suggest you do is send us you can send it to Al. Uh the name and phone contact of that person and we could verify. Uh there are 11 private labs I believe. That are doing COVID-19 testing. It is impossible for me to see what may have led to that. It could have been a false positive, a false negative administrative error. But I cannot here be judge jury and execution on say the lab was at fault. Because I simply don't have the information. So if you send it us. Um we can do that. Um what was the second part of the question? Persons who don't have IDs and wants to be vaccinated.
We are vaccinating persons without IVs. Because we recognize there will be persons without IDs that is more important to vaccinate them than to stand on ceremony and be overly bureaucratic. So you can be vaccinated without an ID as we have been doing. Okay? But those numbers are fairly fairly small. Thank you. Thank you Minister and Chando, you can send your email to corporate dot firstname.lastname@example.org dot TT. Uh with that we go to AZP.AZP News.com. We are ready for your questions. Good morning. Privately Harry, ESGP News.com. My first question is for Doctor Hines and my second question I'm already funneled. There are concerns Doctor Heinz that the the 21 day quarantine period might be a bit too long because people who who initially test positive they they are negative long long before that and then secondly people who are primary contacts and and in quarantine. They they feel that they they they're waiting too long after we release. Is anything can anything be done to to get that preorder a much much shorter. And my second question, there was, a study done in Singapore, where, where they, the, the, the, the, the people who had passed away, due to covid-19, and, any type of vaccines that they took.
Um, hopefully vaccinated. And, and passed away. Um, and what I found was that the mRNA vaccines seem to be more effective as opposed to the ones with the own technology. Is that a concern for for and Tobago and is the ministry looking at that issue. Thank you very much. Okay, thank you for the two questions, Mr. Bihari, with respect to the first, we continue to review the evidence, the data globally, internationally on the durations of infectious periods, and the durations of incubation that have been demonstrated as the pandemic unfolds. The isolation period for those who are infected, have been set at 21 days ready to minimize the possibility of someone who is still infectious. Meaning, shedding virus. Being out and about and continuing to contribute to the spread of the virus. While they are ill. Even if they don't feel ill. Now people may test negative prior to that.
But as the WHO itself has actually pointed out the best use of the testing resource at this point in time is not to utilize it for out testing as in testing to release individuals from isolation. So what you do is you create a system that may on the side of caution but reduces the risk of infectious people moving around to the greatest extent possible. We continue to review the data if there's enough evidence to suggest that we would want to shorten the period based on the international information then the period will be adjusted accordingly. That's a continuous review process. Similarly for the period for which individuals are quarantined. When you are exposed not yet infected but you're exposed to an infected person you have the possibility of becoming infected yourself and of manifesting symptoms or a positive test. And the time frame during which that is likely to happen extends to as far as 14 days. Therefore the quarantine period matches that incubation period for the virus. And you were asked to remain out of circulation pending that potential development.
So again as we look at the data if there's any evidence to suggest that It is safe to shorten that period without increasing the risk of transmission. than those those adjustments will be made. But they're not they're not unnecessary and just because people feel inconvenienced by them doesn't mean that they're certainly not valid. Now the second question with respect to the mRNA will assist other vaccines. I think the best answer to that is that whichever kind of vaccine you have the response of your immune system is strengthened by getting your booster. So once you've been vaccinated, you reach full vaccination whether it is with the mRNA, whether it is with the the killed virus, the whole virus.
Whichever vaccine is available and is given to you. Your effectiveness is going to be boosted by continuing with the booster schedule. And therefore the concern that may arise from whether or not one or the other gives you a longer protection. It's mitigated by the fact that there is a booster program and are enough vaccines to provide boosters to all those who have been vaccinated. So we can keep that protection going and we encourage individuals to continue to follow with the with the schedule with the initial doses with the vaccination with their booster vaccinations to maintain the best possible outcomes. Um I I just want to add to what Doctor Hines is saying. Um prior I'm I'm looking here. Singapore's Minister Ong He said, be mindful responding to your question about the report.
This is not a scientific report and these are his words. This is the these are the words of the health minister of Singapore. And it's so unfortunate the way the national conversation has been phrased. He says, be mindful. We are calculating this based on quite a small sample of two hundred and 47 deaths. And this is key lime. These rates are only indicative since they do not account for other factors which can affect mortality such as the age and timing of vaccination. So ladies and gentlemen, I just want to urge us, when we are reading reports, not a cherry pick something to fit a narrative. Look at the entire report. let us make reasonable conclusions and not assumptions And this is these are his words.
These are the words of the health minister of Singapore. Be mindful. We are calculating this based on a small sample of two hundredand 47 deaths. And Doctor Heinz could tell you making assumptions based on small numbers is actually quite counterproductive. And it is worth repeating. The rates are only indicative. Not conclusive, indicative since they do not account for other factors. So, you have to consider everything prior. So, please, I, I, I really appeal to us when we are reading these things. That we read them in the round. And and not make conclusions. Which cannot be supported by the evidence Thank you very much. Thank you minister. We go to Guardian Media Limited. We are ready for your questions. Good morning to the panel. Good morning. So my question is through ah the Minister of Health. So yesterday Guardian Media carried a report that pharmacies were selling rapid anti-gen tests to the public.
Now I noticed one week after you announced that importers could send requests for approvals. So my question is well approvals for this sale given by the Food and Drugs Division in less than a week. And if not how this pharmacy was allowed to sell these tests. Although the pharmacy board had yesterday set a wholesale already had the test. So I wanted to find from the Minister of Health Weed or not, he received these reports and if not, how did it get past customs? Okay. So, the issue of customs is not under the remit of the Ministry of Health. Customs is under the Ministry of Finance. So, I wouldn't be able to answer that. As I have stated, several times, the process for registering rapid antigen tests is a very simple process. It could be done at a couple of days. My information is that chemistry, food drugs has in fact approved rapid antigen tests maybe a week or two ago. So if it's that rapid antigen test it is legal. It is legal for sale. Um so that's the information I can give you at this point in time.
Thank you Minister. Uh we quickly go across to the express. We are ready for your questions. Good morning. Kimball Drum from the Express Um Minister of Health was also either doctors appreciated to weigh in. First of all, just to come back to the vaccine issue. Minister, why we do have an adversary reporting effects thing in place and that's a requirement but for others, you know, we've we've not on we are not unknown for any type of medical strides out there in the world. Why not establish something that is a little more, when I say personal to try not a research center that could take on these types of cases because in media does get a lot more reports and people are not always willing to come forward as these three other young people were and make themselves public but they're claiming to have these severe and well less severe adverse effects for vaccines.
So why not establish something that is our own that is a putting us in a bed would put us eventually in a better position to give better answers to people like this. Also the antigen testing kits they are out there. They are becoming available. A very specific question about that that is happening. What happens when people get there is a margin of falls and positive results of course with those. But what happens when people are getting positive antigen tests at home and negative PCR tests when they test mostly privately that I'm aware. What advice to give to people like that? Because there's a perception that there's a move away now from PCR tests.
Tests towards the antigen test in terms of reliability. It's causing some confusion. So I was hoping for any kind of clarity on that. Thank you. We have a lot to get there. So I have a different perspective. You started off as you and we are not renowned for medical advancements. Um I think the doctors in our public healthcare system and private healthcare system will have a different view. We have pioneered a lot of medical procedures over the years.
I wouldn't go into them. The reporting system is a global system. We are part of a global community. What you don't want is individual countries setting their own standards because all of this information has to go to a global repository. That will feed the purpose of having a global monitoring system. This system is robust. The system has worked for decades. It is just that with the as I said with the COVID-19 vaccine. It is it is it is in the news. But these systems are part of a global monitoring system. And that is what we do. We are part of a global system that reports adverse events of the chain to powerhole WHO and the manufacture us if need be.
On the issue of rapid antigen testing, I don't know if Doctor Hines wants to come in here but I have said and we have all said that the gold standard for testing is PCR. But there is a place for rapid antigen testing. However, the advantages of rapid antigen testing is one price. It's relatively cheap. Two, it's quick. But what you get that you sacrifice and accuracy. And what we ask people to do especially if you get a negative because they are prone to false negatives is that you follow the what a PCR. So I'll turn over to Doctor Hanks to give you a more technical answer on that. It was important to note with the different forms of testing is A when you use them and B how you interpret the result. And one of the important things to notice specifically about the rapid antigen test is clearly it performs better in individuals are symptomatic in giving you an indication of what could be happening with this individual at a given point in time. If you're symptomatic, meaning you're having any of these symptoms that could possibly be COVID.
You have an a rapid antigen test and it's negative. It doesn't mean we'll ignore the possibility of COVID and go about your business. You still would want to then continue on to have some confirmatory result with the PCR. So that you can be guided accordingly. And even in the absence of any test result. If you're symptomatic taken having deteriorating, signs deteriorating symptoms with or without either PCR or a rapid test. We would encourage you to seek healthcare where they can provide a support for you and B the relevant confirmation. So you're not being guided strictly by test results but you're also being guided by the clinical condition of the patient. And just to reiterate that all of this is in the context of interpreting that epidemiological situation. Is the person symptomatic? Were they etcetera. There's a lot that that is factored in beside the test results in making a decision on what to do next once you have tested. And this is why we seek the guidance.
We encourage the population to seek the guidance of the health professionals in both interpreting and then in responding to whatever result they have from whichever test they have done. So I'm hoping that provides a little more context in terms of the testing. Thank you very much Doctor Hines. We'll now move to address some the math questions that were sent to us. First, if the COVID-19 If covid-19 can spread from dry spit. The concern is people spit on the streets all the time. Can COVID be spread in this way? Sometimes you'll take that one. Okay, I think I will take that one. It's an interesting question.
It's one that we had addressed quite earlier on in the pandemic. With regard to the existing public health laws against what we call public expectoration or spitting on the streets. The regulations that have been in place since tuberculosis was a concern. Yes, speaking Streets is a nasty and B against the public health laws and it should be discouraged. But this may not be the most important factor in terms of the public spread of covid-19 at this point in time. So while it is something to be discouraged, we still need to focus importantly on contact with ill people and the hygiene around touching can potentially contaminated surfaces that would be really a little more germain to of risks of transmission and here we want to reemphasize those three Ws. The mask wearing reduces the risk of you putting droplets into the air. And if you have a mask on and you can't spit on the pavement.
The second thing is the hand washing which reduces the risk of touching contaminated surfaces. And they're watching it distance. And on top of that of course we want to continue to encourage vaccination which reduces your risk of being A infected. B ill and C having a fatal outcome. So yes the there's minor concern around that and there is a law against the public expiration but let's keep focused on the three Ws and the very important fee. Alright, thank you Doctor Heis. I want to invite Minister to add the response. No, no, okay. Okay. Okay. Alright. Okay. So, we go to the next question. There's speculation that a young woman who had been hospitalized for three to four months after taking the vaccine died yesterday. It is said that she became paralyzed from the vaccine. Is this true those that report has reached any of our offices through any of the channels that the minister would just have outlined in some detail. Of course, if additional information is available and they wish to provide that through the reporting channels including through the corporate communications division, then, you're free to do so and any such information will be followed up and investigated accordingly.
Thank you, Doctor Hines and again, the Email contact is corporate email@example.com dot TT. We move to another has the Ministry of Health being contacted with with respect to the reopening of the beaches in Tobago and the concerns of reef tour operators in light of Tobago's tourism thrust. Thank you. I think I think that one falls in my side of the court. Yeah. So Trinidad and Tobago beaches across both islands are currently open from a BD 5 AM to twelve noon. All beaches across Trinidad and Tobago are open. it's it's it's one country and all beaches are open from 5 AM to twelve noon. Take advantage of it. Um what we are trying to do is to prevent the congregation that tends to happen on evenings with the but you know you know what happens when the sun starts to go down.
And especially with the army cram variant. We have to be careful. So go and take your sea bath. Whether it's for exercise. Just to decompress. Um the whatever. It's it's good. Um on the issue of reef tours. Um that is something that we are always looking at to see which sectors of the economy can be opened up. Um and and we continue to monitor all of these things. So that we could put people back out to work. But in a safe manner that will not overwhelm the healthcare system. Right? So thank you very much Al. Mister final question. There has been a debate on the length of days after testing for the covid-19 virus. Before the virus is detected. Has there been a shift of variance in the number of days of quarantine and the number of days the virus has detected after testing.
Okay so I think we addressed that partially when Mister Bihari's question was answered. Now one of the things that this question focuses on is the time frame between you becoming infected and you having a positive test. And that really just emphasizes the importance of that incubation period that we have you quarantined for. The period during which you may be infected and subsequently become infectious. But initially your test may not show up as positive. So no there hasn't been a shift for all the reasons that we have just described and explained in detail. But we continue to look at the data internationally.
And if there is evidence for a change then changes will be made according way. Thank you doctor Heinz and that's all the time we have for question and answer segment. We thank the media for their engaging questions, our panelists for their responses, and you are viewing and listening public for tuning, tuning in to this update. In closing, we ask that you please continue to protect yourself and your loved ones for and for up to date and reliable information on covid-19, please go to the Ministry of Health's website WWW dot Health dot TT or visit us media handles.
If you haven't received your covid-19 vaccine as yet, please get yours now. Don't delay. Get vaccinated today. We do have two testimonials which we will show right now but for now, from our panelist, we say goodbye. Hi, I'm Anastasia Blackman from Mayaro. And I took the COVID-19 vaccine because I miss my social life. I would soon like to get back to some form of normality. Don't delay. Get vaccinated today. A message from the Ministry of Health. My name is Roberts. I live at Road, New Grant. I'm a member of the Brothers Road Chronic Disease Exercise Class. I took the COVID-19 vaccine because I believe in the science and was afraid of getting sick and hospitalized for COVID. Don't delay. Get vaccinated today.
A message from the Ministry of Health. Hey, yo. Your boy Tim Tim here again. This time, we came to a public park just to ask, what is people's why? Why did they take the covid-19 vaccine? Yes, yes, yes. You might call it .
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