Health April 23, 2021 | 1:35 pm

Why do North American authorities recommend not coming to the country?

Analysis. Under fire from Covid-19


Santo Domingo, DR

At 1:02 p.m. the day before yesterday, the U.S. State Department distributed a warning message to its citizens not to travel to the Dominican Republic because, according to its Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “there is a very high level of Covid-19 in the country.”

I read the message over and over again. I decided to inquire why “the Americans” claim that there is so much Covid in the country that they recommend their citizens not to travel to avoid the risk of getting sick. I think it is worth looking at how the virus is being dealt with here and how the infection persists.

The message was direct.
Although the message distributed by the U.S. embassy was circulated among national press executives, no newspaper echoed that information, and therefore, I share the essence of that news:

“Dominican Republic – Level 4: Do Not Travel.”

“Do not travel to the Dominican Republic due to Covid-19.

“Read the State Department’s Covid-19 page before planning any international travel.

“The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a Level 4 Travel Health Advisory for the Dominican Republic due to Covid-19, indicating a very high level of Covid-19 in the country. Visit the Embassy’s Covid-19 page for more information on Covid-19 in the Dominican Republic.” End of message.

For the U.S. to alert its citizens not to travel to the Dominican Republic because there is “a very high level of Covid-19 in the country,” they have to have good information that is not available to ordinary mortals. Since I do not have that information, I reviewed the bulletins of the Department of Epidemiology of the Ministry of Health for the last week with data on the behavior of the virus between Wednesday 14 and Wednesday 21 of this month to see what is of interest in them.

Few Covid tests
From bulletin #392 released on Thursday 15 to #399 issued yesterday, it can be extracted that only 21,782 diagnostic tests have been done in seven days, equivalent to 3,111 tests per day in a population of more than 11 million Dominicans.

But in that low number of tests, 3,296 positive cases were diagnosed in one week, equal to 470 cases per day, which places the positivity of the period in a daily average of 15.10 per 100 samples analyzed.

This is a very high level of virus circulation, and the possibility of becoming infected is also high.

In those seven days, 36 patients hospitalized for Covid-19 died, which gives an average of 5.1 deaths per day, while the occupancy of ICU beds and the use of ventilators increased several percentage points.

With those levels of positivity and that low number of samples processed, the authorities have eliminated the curfew, there is a relaxation of the prevention measures that the population celebrates to enjoy today and get infected tomorrow, and scandals and shootings at parties until the wee hours of the morning are reported in the press with great frequency.

At that rate, “the Americans” know very well that Covid is gaining ground here and that what the authorities are doing is not enough to contain it.

What are the authorities doing against Covid?
Essentially two things: attending to critical patients in hospitals and managing and applying vaccines, which here and around the world are at the experimental level because they are new and no one knows yet their positive effects are to protect against the virus or the adverse impact on people’s health.

When the government informed two weeks ago that it would reduce the official coverage of PCR tests to confirm Covid diagnoses and instead would do it with the antigens, it revealed its intention to lower its commitment to fight the virus, which, by the way, allows moderating the numbers that show the approximate actual number of infected people and to present the country as “practically healthy” and ready to normalize all its activities.

The specialists made it clear that the only laboratory test confirmatory of the virus causing Covid-19 is PCR. The others indicate the non-presence, present or past existence of the virus but have no definitive diagnostic value.

There is no doubt that there is a community circulation of the coronavirus in the country. There is no single municipality free of positive cases, much less isolated from the prominent active foci of infection.

Most active foci
These hotspots are the National District, where 76,921 cases of Covid-19 have been diagnosed, and 531 patients have died; Santo Domingo province, which is the periphery of the National District, with 53,282 positive cases and 665 deaths; Santiago, with 28,592 registered cases and 561 deaths; and La Altagracia province, with 9,491 infected and 71 deaths.

A clean fight
It has already been said that with Covid-19, there can be no shortcuts to defeat it, that it must be fought in order; otherwise, it will continue sinking its head only to come out again with a treacherous and deadly wave that forces to retrace the steps of those who try to deceive it.

There are countries with immense resources of all kinds, such as the United States, Brazil, some European countries, India… which have relaxed their measures under pressure from social or economic groups. When they were most enthusiastic about their new “normality,” they were surprised by a tsunami of infections caused by new variants of the virus.

To control the virus, you have to know precisely where it is infecting, in what magnitude, and then strike with all curative and preventive resources to isolate and tame it as the Chinese did in Wuhan in December 2019 and January 2020.

That is what has allowed China today to enjoy 18% output growth in the first quarter of this year.

To achieve that, you have to make mass testing free and easily accessible to the population, not restrict it, not make it difficult. While the viral infection is personal and familial, the health consequences are social and national, affecting society.

Curing and vaccinating are essential, and the government is doing well. Still, if it lowers the tests and ignores the magnitude of the infestation in the country, it is not known when there will be neighborhoods or cities in the Dominican Republic free of Covid-19.

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