Last week this country crossed a dreaded milestone in the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic when the 1000th death from the disease was recorded.
It was a figure that was impossible to fathom just over a year ago, when T&T’s first death from the pandemic was recorded—77-year-old Hansel Leon, a Carnival loving national resident in the United States.
At the time of Leon’s death at the Couva Hospital in March 2020, there were 59 active COVID-19 cases in the country. Compare that to the 5,893 reported by the Ministry of Health as of 4 pm yesterday and a picture begins to emerge of how the coronavirus has been stealthily spreading across the population, ravaging communities and families.
But other numbers must be considered to get a clearer picture of the COVID-19 situation in this country.
While the number of deaths climbed to 1,032 as of yesterday, out of a total of 37,365 people infected since the disease entered our borders, 30,440 have fully recovered.
Another figure worth noting is that 181,299 citizens are now fully immunised against COVID-19 and have more than a fighting chance of getting past the coronavirus with little or no ill effects.
So far, it seems, anti-vaccine sentiments have not swayed many people here from accessing the best weapon against a highly infectious virus that has been rapidly evolving and becoming more deadly the more it spreads around the world.
Still, it is important that lessons learned from past pandemics be kept at the forefront, if only to avoid mistakes made that have cost many lives and inflicted severe social and economic peril in countries much more developed than ours.
Since the emergence of COVID-19, comparisons have been made with a pandemic that occurred early in the 20th century, the unfairly named Spanish Flu of 1918 which killed more than 50 million people, approximately 2.1 per cent of the world’s population at the time. That is much more than the 4,167,663 fatalities from COVID-19 so far.
That pandemic arose in three waves, with the second being the deadliest and there were reports of a fourth wave in some countries two years after the first outbreak.
There have been other pandemics since, but none have been as deadly. However, looking back in history, there was an outbreak of leprosy which grew into a pandemic in Europe in the Middle Ages; the bubonic plague that killed an estimated 25 million people in Europe; and seven cholera pandemics that have occurred since the 17th century.
In modern history, the HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) that emerged in 1981 and has infected 65 million people worldwide, is yet to be eradicated.
However, the more imminent threat comes from two occurring concurrently with COVID-19—the pandemic of the unvaccinated and the pandemic of misinformation.
One is actively being tackled with support from private sector groups and their armies of volunteers at mass vaccination sites across the country. The other, unfortunately, continues to thrive on social media and has the potential to derail much of the progress made in the fight against COVID-19.
It must be addressed urgently and forcefully.