Georgetown – Minister of Health Dr Frank Anthony has confirmed the presence of the Omicron variant here, following the return of positive coronavirus (COVID-19) samples sent to the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) for genetic sequencing.
He made the disclosure during the daily COVID-19 update on Wednesday, saying that all but one of the samples recently sent to the regional public health agency had been confirmed as being of the Omicron variant.
“Of the 20 samples that we have sent, 19 came back positive for Omicron. One was indeterminate, because . . . apparently they did not have enough genetic material in the sample to be able to sequence it,” Anthony said.
The sub-type BA.2, of the Omicron variant has been detected in 74 countries and seems to be overtaking the BA.1 sub-type, which is the dominant sub-type.
The difference between the two sub-types is the presence of the SG target failure, which can be detected in the BA.1 using the normal PCR; however, the BA.2 does not have this target failure and therefore cannot be detected by a normal PCR test and requires genetic sequencing.
Anthony noted that scientists have been trying to observe whether this would lead to any clinical difference. However, so far, it remains similar in terms of hospitalization and clinical presentation.
“However, what they have found is that it [BA.2] has a shorter duration for incubation – about half-day less than the Omicron BA.1 but it’s not really significant,” he said. “I guess the scientists would continue to observe and make deductions on what is happening with the BA.2.”
The BA.1 sub-variant has been the dominant variant since Omicron first surfaced last November.
Meantime, the minister of health noted the general decline in COVID-19 cases countrywide, after peaking at more than 13 000.
Current active cases stand at 494, with active cases in Region Four dropping to 144 after several months.
Hospitalization numbers also continue to decrease with mostly older persons with underlying conditions being hospitalised. (CMC)