Virus curve ‘flattens’ but fight continues

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By Gemma Handy

The Covid curve may be “flattening” – but the fight is far from over.

That was the message from health chiefs who marked the 12th straight day with no additional confirmed cases of the coronavirus yesterday with cautious optimism.

However, with just 29 people tested for the illness in the 15-day period from April 12 to April 27, questions continue to linger over the true level of community spread and the efficacy of the government’s attempts to thwart it.

To date, 102 people in Antigua and Barbuda have been tested for Covid-19 – just 0.1% of the entire population.

The country has been limited to conducting 20 tests a week due to resources at the Caribbean Public Health Agency tasked with analysing them being stretched thin.

Up to press time, there were five new suspected cases, results of which are likely to be announced today.
The number of known, laboratory-confirmed cases remains at 24 until then.

The recent hiatus in confirmed cases was dubbed “progress” by Health Minister Molwyn Joseph who spoke of a “new phase” in the virus battle.

“But I want to make it very clear: the fight against Covid is not over,” he told a press conference.

Opening up the economy will see “more people mingling” and more opportunities for transmission, he continued.

“It means people must recognise they have an even greater role to play in maintaining this progress and to eliminate Covid from our society.

“We must maintain adherence to instructions and the rules which have been laid down.

“Covid is no less deadly today than it was when it started in Wuhan; we cannot put down our guards,” he warned.

Responding to a question as to whether the recent relaxation of curfew restrictions was triggering complacency, Chief Medical Officer Dr Rhonda Sealey-Thomas admitted to trepidation.

With a significant number of businesses reopening in recent days, city streets have once again been bustling with pedestrians and shoppers during the daytime.

“I too am concerned about whether persons are continuing to comply with the measures,” the CMO said.

“I want to urge the public to continue to follow the rules that have been put in place, for example, the social distancing, wearing a mask whenever you enter outdoors, and limiting your interaction with persons.”

Keeping the economy functioning and the nation healthy is a “delicate balance”, she said.

“Persons don’t want to be in their houses cooped up; they need exercise, they need fresh air but they also need to be responsible.

“As we continue to see a flattening of the curve, people need to realise that if we relax those measures, if we don’t practice social distancing and wearing face masks, we can see an increase in the number of cases,” she explained.

The theory that the country’s virus curve may be flattening arises from the Ministry of Health’s own analysis, along with modelling from the University of the West Indies, the CMO said.

“I view this with mixed feelings, including optimism that we will continue to see fewer cases or no cases, and trepidation when we see and hear of the relaxation of restrictions; I hope the public will remain vigilant and not become complacent,” she added.

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