Tuesday 2 June, 2020

Minister on COVID-19 deaths: T&T sample too small to draw conclusions

Trinidad and Tobago’s high diabetic rates may factor in to the COVID-related deaths recorded thus far.

This, according to Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh who was asked to comment on the country’s COVID-19 death rate.

Deyalsingh was speaking at a virtual media conference hosted by the Health Ministry on Thursday.

While no major details have been divulged, in keeping with patient confidentiality, the five deaths recorded in T&T were all patients in their 70s, with pre-existing conditions.

The Minister said this was not out of the ordinary as it is consistent with the deaths seen internationally.

The elderly, individuals who are immunocompromised, and those with pre-existing conditions such as asthma, diabetes, heart disease appear to be more vulnerable to becoming severely ill with the virus. In many cases, the virus has proved to have fatal consequences for those in these categories.

Commenting on the number of deaths, Deyalsingh noted that five out of 90 sounds high, but he noted that experts have indicated that that number is still too small to make any kind of inferences.

“We have to wait, according to the experts, when we reach our hundredth case, taking out the 49 (from the cruise ship 68). We are at 41, we have to get another 59 cases before we can say our death rate of five is statistically significant,” he answered.

The Minister noted, however, that Trinidad and Tobago has an “inherently unhealthy population” which is experiencing a “crisis” of diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol, and cardiovascular disease.

Chief Medical Officer Dr Roshan Parasram noted that with increased numbers of cases the authorities would be able to draw more statistically significant conclusions.

On the issue of Trinidad and Tobago joining the “Solidarity trial”, a clinical study geared toward pinning down potential treatments for COVID-19, Dr Parasram indicated that the proposal is being put forward by the University of the West Indies (UWI).

This will first have to be considered by the Ethics Committee of the Ministry of Health and the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) before local health officials can explore possible treatment options as outlined in the study.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has indicated that the Solidarity trial will test four different drugs or combinations – remdesivir, a combination of two drugs, lopinavir and ritonavir, the two drugs plus interferon beta, and chloroquine. The trial will compare the effectiveness of these drugs to the standard of care — the regular support currently in use by hospitals treating COVID-19 patients.

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