Omicron variant in at least three Caribbean countries

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Though some countries are unable to test for the presence of variants of the novel coronavirus, the new Omicron variant has been detected in at least three Caribbean countries – Bermuda, Cuba and Trinidad and Tobago.

This was highlighted on Wednesday during a webinar by Dr. Prabhjot Singh, the Advisor on Health Surveillance, Disease Prevention and Control at the Pan- American Health Organization (PAHO).

Dr. Prabhjot Singh, the Advisor on Health Surveillance, Disease Prevention and Control at the Pan- American Health Organization (PAHO)

Based on earlier reports from PAHO, the variant has already been detected in Brazil and Argentina.  The Omicron variant is a new mutated form of the novel coronavirus. Based on available research, this variant is more transmissible- that is, more readily spread from person to person.

There have been concerns that unless countries are well-prepared, the new Omicron variant will lead to an increase in COVID-19 infections, hospitalisations and unfortunately, deaths.

And Dr. Singh said that countries should procure enough supplies to ensure that their hospitals and the wider health system are not overwhelmed when this new variant inevitably spreads.

Importantly, once the Omicron variant spreads to a country, he explained that it is expected that there will be a lull or a period of relative calm for about three to four weeks before countries experience a surge in cases and hospitalisations.

This was observed with the spread of the deadly Delta variant. This Delta variant continues to be the dominant strain of the coronavirus as Omicron is slowly spreading across the globe.

In Guyana, Health Advisor to the Ministry of Health Dr. Leslie Ramsammy acknowledged that Guyana is unable to readily confirm its presence of the variant with special genetic testing. But, he said that the health authorities have been anticipating the spread of variants and preparing for that surge.

“We would be stupid to say we have a test and we are waiting to detect it before we decide how to respond…. We need to assume that (the Omicron variant) is here,” Dr. Ramsammy emphasised during a recent interview with the News Room.

Both Dr. Singh and Dr. Ramsammy emphasised that it is necessary for people, especially those who are at risk of experiencing the more severe symptoms of COVID-19, to get vaccinated.

Without widespread vaccination, Dr. Ramsammy warned that more variants will emerge and threaten health systems.

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