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COVID variant in St Lucia

COVID variant in St Lucia

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The Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) confirmed five cases of the COVID-19 variant SARS-Co-V-2 in St Lucia.

A release from the island’s Department of Health and Wellness said two British nationals and three St Lucians had the virus, but all have since recovered.

The two Brits were diagnosed on December 17 and 23. The St Lucians who are from Dennery, Micoud and Babonneau, were also diagnosed in December.

On December 14, 2020 the United Kingdom Public Health Agency reported a variant of SARS-CoV. The identified strain had been in circulation from September 20, 2020 within the United Kingdom. The virus has since been detected in Denmark, the Netherlands, Belgium and Australia but the risk of importation into the Caribbean and rest of the world was rated as high due to incoming travel from the United Kingdom and Europe. Cases of this new strain have since been confirmed in Caribbean islands including Trinidad & Tobago and Jamaica.

On December 21, 2020, CARPHA hosted an emergency meeting with the Pan-American Health Organisation, the World Health Organisation, the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States and the Chief Medical Officers of the region to discuss the risks by this new variant. It was further confirmed that the COVID-19 PCR testing being done in countries remains the gold standard to ensure accurate diagnosis, even with the mutations, and the vaccine approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) remains as relevant.

The recommendations made are in relation to the strict adherence to the current regional and national guidelines on COVID-19 prevention and control. These include the limitations on social gatherings, maintenance of physical distancing measures, hand hygiene and infection prevention and control measures, mandatory use of face masks in public and strict adherence to protocols within the Tourism Sector and quarantine for all returning nationals. CARPHA has also requested that positive cases with high viral loads be sent to their laboratories for gene sequencing for surveillance of this new strain of the virus in our region. Saint Lucia has complied with these recommendations.

CARPHA is the regional reference lab with the capacity to perform gene sequencing for the region. It has allowed countries to send an allocation of ten samples per week which meet the requirements for gene sequencing.

This new situation further emphasises the need for strict adherence to all protocols recommended thus far and to ensure increased vigilance at all levels where risk has been identified.

The Ministry of Health and Wellness will continue monitoring the situation and recommendations will be made as needed guided by the science to reduce the impact of COVID-19 on our population. (PR/SAT)