As Trinidad and Tobago prepares to reopen its borders to international travel on Saturday, Pan American Health Organisation’s (PAHO) Director of Health Emergencies, Dr Ciro Ugarte, says it is impossible to eliminate the risk of any new virus entering the country.
Ugarte responded to Guardian Media’s question on how T&T should operate its border control, given that the highly transmissible COVID-19 Delta Variant found its way into the Caribbean through travellers.
During PAHO’s COVID-19 media briefing yesterday, Ugarte said many countries in the Americas were concerned about reopening their borders.
“In that regard, it is important to understand that it is impossible to eliminate the risk of the entering of any new virus,” Ugarte said.
He said T&T must make all efforts to identify cases early and ensure the use of every possible public health measure. These include physical distancing, isolation, quarantine, treatment and reporting of these cases.
“It is not easy to implement, so it has to be carefully drafted according to what is the capacity of the health services and systems in the country. I think implementing those measures would be better while reopening the economy at the same time to protect the population.”
However, Ugarte said authorities must adjust measures based on the epidemiological situation in travellers’ country of origin and destination.
The Delta Variant, which the World Health Organisation lists as a Variant of Concern, is 1.2 times more transmissible than other strains of COVID-19. It has ravaged India and led to surges in infections in several countries, including England and the United States of America. PAHO confirmed the Delta Variant’s presence in the Caribbean, with cases reported in Barbados, Guadeloupe, Martinique, Saint Martin, Saba and Aruba.
“We also know from the experience of the recent past that new variants introduced in a specific country can very quickly replace the pre-existing ones in the context of higher transmissibility,” Dr Sylvain Aldighieri, PAHO Incident Manager for COVID-19, said.
Aldighieri said Barbados obtained genomics information through the sequencing reference laboratory at the University of the West Indies in Trinidad. It confirmed the Delta Variant in four cases associated with travellers. Although Barbados reintroduced stricter public health measures last weekend due to a rise in new infections, Aldighieri said there was no evidence of community transmission of the Delta Variant.