Guyana sends samples to test for Omicron variant
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President Dr. Irfaan Ali
President Dr. Irfaan Ali

–over 1,000 new cases of COVID-19 recorded within the past 24 hours

WITH Guyana recording a rise in the daily number of COVID-19 cases, President Dr. Irfaan Ali has said that samples were sent overseas to test for the Omicron variant, which is reportedly more transmissible.

Prior to this announcement by the President on Wednesday, Minister of Health, Dr. Frank Anthony, had expressed the belief that the steady increase in positive COVID-19 cases over the past few weeks is due to the Omicron variant.

According to the minster, as at December 28, 2021, just 32 COVID-19 cases were recorded, but the number rose to 87 the following day, and 206 by December 31, 2021. Daily cases have since increased to over 700, according to Ministry of Health reports.

The most recent report released by the ministry shows that there were over 1,000 new cases within the past 24 hours.

“Pertaining to whether we have Omicron or not, as I said based on the evidence that we have, we do believe that it’s Omicron and that’s because of its contagiousness. The number of cases that we are seeing in the shortened time, the types of symptoms that people are having, the less hospitalisation that we are witnessing… so there are all these features that we have observed using our collection of data and because of that we can predict that that is what we have here,” Minister Anthony said.

According to a United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA’s) analysis, certain mutations in the SARS-CoV-2 Omicron variant (B.1.1.529) lead to significantly reduced sensitivity in an N-gene or S-gene genetic target that covers the portion of the gene where the mutation occurs.

“Now, another way of determining if you have it or not, with Omicron, one of the PCR tests that is normally done targets three specific areas of the virus and one of the ways is called a S-gene and if you see an S-gene drops, it is a proxy indicator that it might be omicron.

Minister of Health, Dr. Frank Anthony

“To be sure, you’ll have to confirm with genetic sequencing which we are also pursing, but in light of the epidemical evidence which we have seen with the S-gene drop off, we are sure we have the Omicron here,” Minister Anthony said.

Further, he said that another indicator that the virus might be here are reports that several other Caribbean countries have confirmed the presence of the virus within their territories.

“When you look around the Caribbean, Omicron is in almost all of the Caribbean countries, showing similar trends in all of those countries as well. So, it is something that is circulating in this part of the world and we expect that it was going to be here and we strongly believe that it is here, based on the epidemical data,” Dr. Anthony reasoned.

VACCINATION
But even as the country continues to analyse data on the situation, authorities are working to ensure that persons are protected from the harmful effects of this disease.
According to the latest COVID-19 statistics, some 411,269 adults and 30,410 adolescents have received their first dose of one of the COVID-19 vaccines available in Guyana.

Those numbers, when broken down, mean that 80.2 per cent of the country’s adult population and 41.7 per cent of its adolescent population have received their first shot of a COVID-19 ‘jab’.

In terms of second doses, statistics show that 57.6 per cent of the adult population is fully vaccinated, representing some 295,696 persons, while 21,740 adolescents or 29.8 per cent of that grouping has received the second shot.

“In terms of boosters, we’ve had 11,986 persons who got their booster doses and this is, again, just a small percentage of our population,” Dr. Anthony said.

With the exception of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine, for persons to be considered fully vaccinated with the available vaccines, namely, AstraZeneca, Sinopharm, Sputnik V and Pfizer, they must get both doses.

ISOLATE
Minister Anthony said that a crucial component in the fight against COVID-19 is isolation, which will prevent the spread of the virus. He said that in many cases, persons who have tested positive but have mild symptoms, have made the unwise decision of continuing to interact with others, thus spreading the virus.

“If you test positive, you also need to isolate. There are people who are testing positive, and because they have mild symptoms, they are going back into the workplace and what they are doing is that they will infect a whole host of other people. So, if you test positive, you need to isolate,” Minister Anthony said.

He reminded that while the ministry recommends isolation, persons should only isolate if they have actually contracted the virus. He added that many persons have been found to have falsified their results in an effort to avoid work.

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