More transmissible variant of COVID-19 circulating here – Health Minister
There is a milder but more transmissible variant of COVID-19 circulating in Guyana, Minister of Health Dr Frank Anthony revealed on Friday.
“There is a variant that is now circulating, especially in the Americas, it’s called a BA.2 sub-variant – this is still the Omicron variant but there is a sub-variant,” Dr Anthony said in his daily COVID-19 update.
And BA.2, in turn, has spawned its own sub-lineage, BA.2.12.1. Together, these sub-variants are driving a surge in cases in the Americas.
“More than likely, what we’ve seen in the Americas is this circulation of the BA.2 and the BA.2.12.1. So that’s something that we probably have here in Guyana, it’s milder but it’s more transmissible…than previous variants that we’ve seen,” the Health Minister disclosed.
These variants, he said, can cause hospitalisation, especially for persons who are older and unvaccinated.
“And we are seeing a few cases of persons getting sick and requiring hospitlaisation.”
Dr Anthony said samples will be sent overseas for testing so as to confirm that the variants are circulating here. He, however, did not say when this will be done.
“However, from the clinical picture of the persons that we’re seeing, the milder version of the disease and so forth, we have a fairly good idea that it’s the BA.2 that is circulating.”
Meanwhile, with only some 638 active COVID-19 cases across the country, Dr Anthony believes there are more people testing positive but not reporting their status to the Ministry of Health.
He said people are using the self-testing kits at home and not reporting their diagnoses to the authorities.
“[This is] an underrepresentation of what is happening because there are people who might be testing and they’re not reporting to us because there are lots of self-testing kits that are available to people, so people are using them, probably checking their status and then if they’re positive, they’re staying home.
“So we wouldn’t have that information unless it’s reported to us,” the Health Minister contended.
He also reasoned that the COVID-19 symptoms now mimic very much a flu, so people do not see the need to get tested.
“So, it’s like an upper respiratory tract infection, maybe there are persons who are getting such symptoms and are not making the differentiation that this can be COVID, so they’re treating it like a flu; they stay home or they go to work and in that case, they can infect other persons.”
While mask-wearing is no longer mandatory here and almost all COVID-19 restrictions have been removed, the Health Minister is still urging people to take the necessary precautions.
Currently, only 441,911 people (86.1 per cent) have taken their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine; 341, 493 (66.6 per cent) have taken their second dose and 34, 689 children (47.6 per cent) between the age of 12-17 have taken their first dose while 25,414 (34.8 per cent) took their second dose.
No statistics are available for booster doses.