PRESS RELEASE – SARS CoV-2 Variants of Concern Update – January 6 2022
The Ministry of Health Wellness and the Environment has received confirmation
from the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) of the omicron variant strain
of the SARS CoV-2 in Antigua and Barbuda.
While Ministry of Health officials have suspected the presence of Omicron in Antigua and Barbuda, this is the first certified confirmation of the variant’s presence.
The omicron variant of concern (VOC), first identified in South Africa in November
2021, was found in a set of samples sent to CARPHA in December 2021. The delta
variant of concern, first identified in Antigua and Barbuda in July 2021, was identified in the other samples.
The omicron variant is identified by multiple spike protein mutations. Experts
believe that it is more transmissible than other VOCs. However, it may cause
more less severe disease, less hospitalizations and deceased intensive care unit (ICU) admissions and deaths.
The World Health Organization has so far confirmed five variants of concern
circulating globally. Antigua and Barbuda has been sending samples to CARPHA
for genomic sequencing to detect variants since October 2020. As a result of the
Ministry of Health’s increased surveillance, all five VOCs have now been identified
in Antigua and Barbuda.
The public is reminded that after a decline in the number of COVID-19 cases since
the end the last surge in November 2021, we are now seeing an increase in the number of cases. This reinforces the fact that we must continue to adhere to the public health measures to prevent and control the disease. These include physical and social distancing, using face masks and practicing hand hygiene and cough etiquette.
The public is further reminded that vaccination is one of the most effective measures to control the COVID-19 pandemic. Persons are therefore urged to get fully vaccinated and get their boosters utilizing the AstraZeneca, Sinopharm, Pfizer and Johnson and Johnson vaccines readily available at our vaccination centres in the Multipurpose and Cultural Centre and the Villa Polyclinic.
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