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Saint Lucia Continues to Monitor the Omicron Variant

As of December 5th, 2021, Saint Lucia has diagnosed a total of 13,048 cases in the country, with 119 active cases. Since the beginning of the outbreak, 4 major waves of COVID-19 have occurred on the island.

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 is 5 per 100,00 population per day, with a transmission rate of 0.8. We have noted a total of 282 COVID-19 deaths. We have 12 positive cases admitted at the Respiratory Hospital, 2 are critically ill 4 severely ill.

Image of Dr Sharon Belmar-George
Chief Medical Officer (CMO) Dr. Sharon Belmar-George

On November 26, 2021, WHO designated B.1.1.529 a variant of concern named Omicron based on the mutations that may impact its behaviour. This variant was first reported to WHO from South Africa on November 24, 2021, and to date has been confirmed in the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, Italy, Germany, Great Britain, Israel, Hong Kong, Belgium, Botswana, Portugal, Austria, Reunion, Spain, Brazil, Czech Republic, United States and Netherlands. 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. 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 the disease has not been confirmed compared to infections from other variants. The common symptoms include strong fatigue, throat itchiness, dry cough and muscular pain. 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 effectiveness of the current treatment regimens is also still being assessed.

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 remain our most important measures at this point in reducing the health implications of this new variant. 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.

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