Barbados Confirms Presence Of New Omicron Variant Of COVID-19

(CMC) – Barbados has confirmed the presence of the new Omicron BA.2 variant of the coronavirus (COVID-19) strain as the island deals with a “dramatic” increase in the number of new COVID-19 cases.

Health and Wellness Minister, Ian Gooding-Edghill, in a broadcast on Thursday night, said that confirmation of the variant had come from the Trinidad-based Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) following the questions that had been raised last week regarding the dramatic increase in new COVID-19 cases and the possible existence of the new BA.2 variant in Barbados.

“I am now in position to inform you that based on the results of samples sent to the Caribbean Public Health Agency laboratory in Trinidad for analysis, I am now confirming that the BA.2 sub variant of COVID-19 does exist in Barbados.

“In fact, 90 per cent of the samples sent to CARPHA were found to be positive for this Omicron variant which is highly contagious, but which does not generally lead to serious illness.”

Edghill said the increase in the positivity rate started on March 28, and on April 13, the Ministry of Health and Wellness recorded 428 new cases of COVID-19 out of 1,357 samples tested.

“This represents an unfortunate record high of a 28 per cent positivity rate. This is in keeping with science that shows that the more COVID spreads, the higher the positivity rate will be.

“Our records show that since March 28, 5,104 new infections were detected. The Omicron sub-variant BA.2 is reportedly more transmissible than BA.1 by 50-80 per cent and this has been attributed to the increased transmission of COVID-19 globally,” Edghill said.

“Let me remind you that COVID-19 is still with us and is likely to be with us for a long time. Be assured that we have the experience and scientific tools to help us properly manage the impact of COVID-19. The non-pharmaceutical interventions such as mask- wearing, physical distancing, good hand hygienic practices and ventilation are critical to reducing the spread of this virus.”

“We also have COVID-19 vaccines for persons who need to be vaccinated for the first time and for those who need to be boosted. I, therefore, join in strongly urging those Barbadians who for whatever reason have not yet been fully vaccinated or boosted, to seriously reconsider their position, seek medical guidance and take the necessary steps to correct their situation.”

The health and wellness minister said that there is overwhelming proof internationally that vaccination and boosting remain crucial to minimising chances of serious illness and possible death. “We have testing facilities to diagnose persons who have possible symptoms of COVID and we have isolation facilities and the Home Isolation Programme for persons who have COVID-19,” he said, re-assuring Barbadians that the authorities have been planning for this phase and, over the last two years, “we have learnt and improved our techniques to address what is happening in the community.

“As we head into our long Easter weekend, I once again advise that the tightening of any of the protocols is not being considered. But at the same time, I am sure that Barbadians as a whole will practice restraint, discipline and moderation with their social activities and interactions over the next few days.”

Edghill said that the reality is that Barbadians have to grow accustomed to managing COVID with the same “level-headedness and common sense that we exercise in managing other challenging areas of our daily lives.

“In this regard, foremost in our minds as we observe the religious and other aspects of the all-important Easter season, will be our necessity to faithfully wash hands, sanitise, practice social distancing, wear our masks in public places and access proper ventilation. These well established and proven healthy practices will, at this time of the new variant, be as beneficial to us now as they have shown themselves to be in our past success,” he said in the broadcast.

Barbados has recorded 381 deaths and 63, 785 infections linked to the pandemic since the first case was detected in March 2020.