St Lucia Health Authorities Confirm First Case Of BA5 Variant Of COVID-19

(CMC) – St Lucia says it has received confirmation from the Trinidad-based Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) of its first case of the highly contagious BA5 variant of the coronavirus.

The country’s Chief Medical Officer (CMO), Dr Sharon Belmar George, said the case is a 36-year-old female from Vieux Fort, who does not have a history of travel. Dr Belmar George said this suggests in-country transmission of BA5 and the presence of other cases.

“As we continue to note the return to normalcy with the opening up of events and mass crowd activities, we need to ensure that proven public health protective measures are in place to prevent us from getting sick and to protect the most vulnerable,” Dr Belmar George said.

“The public is reminded that the threat of COVID-19, long COVID-19 and its complications still exists, especially given St Lucia’s low immunisation rate. Personal responsibility is extremely important at this time, to reduce transmission of infection to ourselves and our family,” she added.

Dr Belmar George went on to issue a reminder of ways to prevent the transmission of the virus.

“The public is guided to continue the use of facemasks in public, ensure hand washing and proper general sanitisation. The public is also advised to use their discretion, ensure they and their vulnerable family members are fully vaccinated and boosted before attending mass crowd events,” Dr Belmar George warned.

Figures released by the St Lucian Ministry of Health on Monday showed that as of July 8, the island has diagnosed a total of 27,254 cases of COVID-19 with 143 active cases.

It said the daily infection rate for the last seven days is 11.4 per 100,000 population per day, with a 20 per cent average testing positivity rate and a transmission rate of 0.91.

“We have noted a total of 385 COVID-19 deaths. We have five positive COVID-19 cases admitted at the Respiratory Hospital. This past week we continue to register cases daily, although we note the general hesitance by the population to test symptomatic and direct contacts of cases. We estimate that the actual number of positive cases to be higher than recorded,” the CMO said.

Among Omicron lineages, the proportions of BA5 and BA4 continue to increase. In some countries, the increases have led to surges in hospitalisations, ICU admissions and deaths.

COVID-19 vaccination is still expected to provide substantial protection against severe disease, although it is noted that the coverage is lowest with these as compared to the original disease.

BA4 and BA5 are the fastest spreading variants reported to date.

The CMO said that to manage COVID19 cases in the country, the Ministry of Health has received 105 vials of the COVID-19 anti-viral drug tocilizumab 400mg from the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO). She said that this drug will be used to treat severe cases of COVID-19.