Govt to test for Omicron variant in Guyana at ‘appropriate time’ – Dr Anthony

The content originally appeared on: INews Guyana

Health Minister Dr Frank Anthony on Wednesday announced that the Guyana Government will test for the Omicron Covid-19 variant in the country at the “appropriate time”.

Local authorities have already sent samples to the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) in Trinidad and Tobago to test for the Delta variant and Dr Anthony has since confirmed that this deadly strain is present here.

On 26 November 2021, the World Health Organisation (WHO) designated the variant B.1.1.529 a variant of concern, named Omicron, on the advice of its Technical Advisory Group on Virus Evolution (TAG-VE). This decision was based on the evidence presented to the TAG-VE that Omicron has several mutations that may have an impact on how it behaves, for example, on how easily it spreads or the severity of illness it causes.

The WHO has since recommended that countries enhance surveillance and sequencing of cases, share genome sequences on publicly available databases, and report initial cases or clusters to WHO.

When asked if the Guyana Government plans on sending more samples to CARPHA to test for the presence of this variant in the country, Dr Anthony said this will be done eventually.

“We have some arrangements with CARPHA where, if necessary, we will send samples. That’s something we will evaluate and at the appropriate time we will send samples,” the Health Minister explained.

The Omicron variant has already been detected in the USA, South Africa, Botswana, Zambia and Zimbabwe, as well as in travellers to Austria, Brazil, the Czech Republic, Finland, France, Ghana, Greece, Hong Kong, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Mexico, the Netherlands, Nigeria, Norway, Reunion, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Switzerland, Tunisia and the United Arab Emirates.

Omicron cases have also been reported in Australia, Belgium, Britain, Canada, Denmark, Germany, Iceland, India, Israel, Norway, Portugal and Spain.

With the threat of this variant, the Health Minister is urging persons to be extra cautious during the holidays.

“We’re entering the Christmas season and people, at this time of the year, would like to socialise with friends and family and may have a false sense that all is well and while our numbers have been on a downward trend, we have to remain vigilant,” Dr Anthony posited.

To date, 404,605 persons or 78.9% of the adult population have received a first dose Covid vaccine while 284,174 persons or 55.4% of adults are fully immunised.

For children, 29,563 or 40.5% have received a first does while 20,793 or 28.5% are fully vaccinated.

To date, 3,790 booster doses have been administered. Active Covid cases currently stand at 979 with majority of the infections concentrated in Region Four (Demerara-Mahaica) which has 407 cases.