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Unsecured Borders a Factor in Second Spread of Covid-19 in TT

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 By Visham Bhimull

 

 

Trinidad and Tobago has been an extempore with regard to our handling of Covid-19 having only eight recorded deaths and, up to the last 80 days, no cases of local spread.

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We have managed to roll back lockdown phases rapidly, taking our economy into consideration.

Things may have been so good that we have now sat back on our laurels by inadvertently encouraged a level of congregation, be it on the political campaign trail or places of business.

But a point that has been too well emphasised by local authorities is that an outbreak is possible with just one case.

The wakeup call came on July 22, when it was announced that two new active local cases were identified. One had a week of interacting with other members of the public.

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Imagine this within a scenario like ours where people have seemed to somewhat let down their guard with respect to social distancing measures. This makes us come to terms with the stark reality of a second wave of a Covid-19 pandemic.

What might then be sources that could lead to a second spread using these cases as examples?

A second wave of an outbreak refers to a subsequent serious increase in cases that occurs after the original surge has been extinguished in a given region or country.

In the case of Covid-19, all it takes is one sneeze in public from a new active case to start the avalanche second wave. Thus far, the most proven measure of reducing spread is the method of physical distancing and restricting movement which was achieved in TT by lockdown and ceasing non-essential activity.

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Closure of our borders to international individuals and Trinbagonians abroad, especially from Covid-19 stricken countries, was a key measure that resulted in how successful we were in rolling back lockdown.

With the announcement of the newly diagnosed active local cases, we must follow closely by tracing those the patients were in contact with, to stop any further spread that can lead to a second wave and identify where these two cases would have contracted the disease.

If it was from an imported case, this would indicate that we should look closer at the flow through our boarders and assess if more control is needed.

It is no secret that, with an official closure of borders, there is no guarantee this would truly ensure we stamp out illegal entry.

Another wake up call came only about a week ago when, police were tipped off about the illegal entry of Venezuelan immigrants to the shores of TT at Beach Road, Santa Flora.

This as Venezuela has started seeing a rise in its Covid-19 cases. Of the total number quoted, only eight were detained and quarantined. Could the rest who were not caught be linked to these new cases? Only time will tell.

An issue of borders that are not secure is indeed a major factor that can lead to a second spread. With a constant possibility of individuals entering TT illegally, a threat of a second spread remains all too real and certainly something that needs urgent attention if the TT population is to be kept safe.

Many countries like India have followed through with a plan, via its national airline company, to make it possible for its citizens who stranded abroad to return.

Many of TT nationals stranded abroad have made the same plea to our government and with the impending elections on August 10, TT only made the decision just recently to carry out a similar plan.

Two other cases of newly diagnosed Covid-19 came legally from Canada and Saudi Arabia possibly via exemptions to our closed borders.

Bearing this in mind, it is indeed scary to hear from the Minister of Health that some who got an exemption to access TT’s borders for their return, have been not complying with the terms of condition of the exemption regarding quarantine agreed to with the Ministry of Health.

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Thus, under even a controlled plan of exemption to closed borders, a possibility of an imported case can never be ruled out completely.

It was evident that shortly after our very first case was diagnosed on March 12, political solidarity was achieved by the various divisions of administration that was slowly followed by social solidarity from the population.

This as, the majority of the public strictly adhered to the physical distancing guidelines.

However, after we moved back a few phases, this solidarity seemed to have slowly dissipating as “the new normal” of wearing a face mask and avoiding congregating are evidently dwindling.

The key words are Coordinate & Crush. This means that in addition to testing, quarantine and other physical distancing measures, in showing solidarity for the better good of our population’s health, we must be coordinated in our actions as a population to crush Covid-19.

We are as weak as our weakest link.

Dr Visham Bhimull MBBS (UWI), Diploma in Family Medicine (UWI) is a Primary Care Physician

 

 

 

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