13,000 COVID-19 Cases Diagnosed in Country

Saint Lucia Continues To Monitor The Omicron Variant

As of December 5th, 2021 Saint Lucia has diagnosed a total of 13,048 cases in country, with 119 active cases. Since the beginning of the outbreak, four major waves of COVID-19 have occurred on island.

According to the Ministry of Health the data suggests that the 4th wave has run its course, closing off on November 16, 2021 with a total of 7,340 cases. The daily infection rate for the last 7 days was five per 100,000 population per day, with a transmission rate of 0.8.

The island has registered 283 COVID-19 deaths thus far.

“We have 12 positive cases admitted at the Respiratory Hospital, two are critically ill four severely ill. On November 26, 2021 WHO designated B.1.1.529 a variant of concern named Omicron based on the mutations that may impact its behavior. This variant was first reported to WHO from South Africa on November 24, 2021 and to date has been confirmed in United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, Italy, Germany, Great Britain, Israel, Hong Kong, Belgium, Botswana, Portugal, Austria, Reunion, Spain, Brazil, Czech Republic, United States and Netherlands,” said Chief medical Officer Dr. Sharon Belmar-George.

“Based on the wide distribution of this new variant at this early stage and phylogeny studies it is estimated that this new variant may have been in circulation from October 18, 2021. This makes travel restrictions from countries with confirmed cases less effective,” George said.

According to her to date, there is still limited information on Omicron. Preliminary evidence suggests that it is 100-500% more transmissible than the original virus strain. The severity of disease has not been confirmed compared to infections from other variants. Further, the common symptoms include strong fatigue, throat itchiness, dry cough and muscular pain and that preliminary evidence suggests there may be increased re-infection and breakthrough infections of vaccinated individuals with Omicron.

“Based on the information on Variants, we know that they can cause severe disease or, in particular to the most vulnerable. Our first line of defense must be prevention followed by control and reduced transmission measures. The effectiveness of the available vaccines suggests that the current vaccines remain effective against severe disease and death. Omicron is accurately detected using PCR testing method but it is not known whether it is detected by rapid Antigen tests,” the Chief medical Officer said.

She noted that the effectiveness of the current treatment regimens is also still being assessed and that in an effort to reduce the impact of this new variant and COVID-19 in general specific interventions are necessary.

“These include increased surveillance for early detection, sequencing capacities which CARPHA has the ability to carry out, ensure optimum testing capacity and the strengthening of infection prevention and control measures and public health and social measures. Vaccination and booster doses for those advised remains our most important measure at this point in reducing the health implications of this new variant,” George said.

The CMO said that the Ministry of Health reminds Saint Lucians of the following important measures:

– Avoid large crowds and crowded areas, ensure the protocols are maintained at work places, on minibuses and commercial and tourism sector, use face mask when in public places, ensure you remain in quarantine or isolation if you were a direct contact of a case, if you develop respiratory symptoms, seek medical care and avoid contact with others.

The Pfizer and Astra Zeneca vaccines are available at the various wellness centers and advertised sites. These vaccines have been proven to be safe and effective in protecting persons from developing COVID-19, its severe forms, complications, hospitalizations and death. The booster Pfizer vaccine is also available for persons who have had both doses of the Astra Zeneca for over 6 months. Everyone who has not been vaccinated is urged to get vaccinated urgently.

She added, “The public health team is working closely with the regional public agencies in obtaining updated timely information to guide the necessary measures in country. There is very high risk of this new variant being imported into the Caribbean region. At this point countries are advised to continue strengthening their national protocols that are already in place.”

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