(CMC) – The Ministry of Health says it is keeping a close eye on developments related to the COVID-19 variant, Omicron, that has now been confirmed in 30 countries, but authorities here have not announced travel restrictions on persons from the affected nations.
In a statement issued on Wednesday, the Ministry of Health and Wellness urged Barbadians to be as “cautious and careful as possible” and sought to assure that it would do its part to keep residents safe.
The Omicron variant, first detected in South Africa, is deemed highly contagious and capable of undergoing frequent mutations.
“The variant Omicron has several mutations that may have an impact on how it behaves; for example, on how easily it spreads, the severity of illness it causes, or the effectiveness of prior infection. Internationally, there are several studies underway to understand the significance of this new variant,” the Ministry of Health said.
“Given the available information from reputable public health agencies and being aware of ongoing research worldwide, the Ministry of Health and Wellness will continue to review its COVID-19 protocols and update where necessary, as it seeks to keep the population as safe as possible.”
While noting that preliminary evidence from the World Health Organisation (WHO) suggests that people who have previously had COVID-19 could possibly become reinfected more easily with Omicron, the Ministry underscored that “all variants of COVID-19 can lead to severe disease or death, particularly for persons who are most vulnerable, such as the elderly, and those with serious health problems, including heart or lung disease, diabetes, obesity or weakened immune system”.
“Preventative behaviour is, therefore, always recommended. Individuals are urged to continue to be as cautious and careful as possible, using the preventative measures such as physical distancing, frequent hand-washing and sanitising, and the correct wearing of masks. Consideration of the benefits of vaccination against COVID-19 is also strongly recommended,” it added.
Trinidad and Tobago has so far joined others in the international community in banning travellers from some African nations, over the Omicron discovery.
The Ministry of Health in the twin-island republic said all persons who are not citizens or permanent residents of Trinidad and Tobago and have visited Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe within a 14-day period of their arrival, will not be allowed entry.
Citizens and permanent residents will be allowed in, but they will have to stay in mandatory state-supervised quarantine for at least 14 days.