Public Health Minister hopeful Covid-19 will be kept under control despite easing of restrictions

During the press briefing on 21 May 2020, Public Health Minister Rafael Sánchez Cárdenas confirmed the test positivity rate has been Declining in the Dominican Republic. There have been 61,330 PCR diagnostic tests carried out and 13,657 confirmed cases, or an overall 22.26% test-positivity rate. This means nearly one in five people who get tested for the coronavirus in the Dominican Republic is found to have it. Earlier the ratio had been one in four. Since last week, more PCR tests are being carried out.The test-positivity rate is described as that used to track the spread of the disease when most people aren’t able to get tested.

According to Coronavirus Bulletin #63 of the Ministry of Public Health’s Department of Epidemiology, the Dominican Republic has 13,657 confirmed cases, 180 new confirmed cases and 448 deaths, including 2 new deaths. 2,066 patients are hospitalized, including 113 in intensive care units.

On Wednesday, 20 May, day one of the easing of restrictions, there was concern the people may not have understood the importance of keeping to the health safeguards. On that day, an estimated 600,000 in the Dominican Republic were authorized to return to work. Hundreds of thousands of these had been staying at home since 20 March when the quarantine began. Public transport was also cleared to operate on a restricted schedule. Other measures are being staggered over a three-month period from now through August.

Dr. Sánchez Cárdenas acknowledged there had been agglomerations to board the Metro and Metropolitan Bus Service Office (OMSA) busses at many points and hours. He remarked it could be that hundreds of thousands that had been sheltered at home went out for their first work day after two months of lockdown.

He is hopeful that Dominicans will implement physical distancing in queues to board public transport. “We are going to wait and watch the behavior of Dominicans,” he said.

The Public Health Minister said the onus is on citizens to keep to the physical distance rules. There were reports in the media that citizens were asking others to respect the rules, including that of not talking on the Metro and bus vehicles to avoid spreading the virus.

Opret reported the video of people jammed in the Metro was because of a system failure around 6pm, but that the situation was quickly resolved. Diario Libre, Listin and Noticias SIN had reported on the agglomerations in public transport. By day two (Thursday) there were fewer agglomerations. The media also carried photos and videos of fewer agglomeration and separation indicators in the mass transport units.

Dr. Sánchez Cárdenas said that the easing of restrictions on the spread of the disease will not be known until around 10 to 14 days. Nevertheless, he said the epidemiology experts continue to monitor the situation on a day-to-day basis.

So far, statistics in Bulletin #63 show a slowdown in the transmission of the disease. There are 21 provinces where 1 or none cases are reported, of 32 provinces and the National District.

Dr. Sánchez Cárdenas urged that Dominicans not let their guard down. He has said if people become careless, the collective sacrifice of two months would be erased. He called for people to keep physical distance and comply with safety recommendations such as constant hand washing to avoid the spread of disease. “We need to restore the economy, and this is only possible by easing the restrictions,” said the Minister. He urged people “to be prudent” so the country can keep the disease transmission under control. Depending on how this first phase goes, others will be activated.

Press briefing Ministry of Public Health

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Listin Diario

22 May 2020