UK COVID VARIANT FOUND IN CAYMAN SAMPLES
The UK COVID-19 variant has been found in test samples from Cayman Islands.
The presence of the variant first observed in the UK was confirmed in samples sent by the Cayman Islands Public Health Department to Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) for verification.
Public Health Cayman confirmed today (Tuesday January 26th) that it has been advised by the CARPHA that, of a selection of COVID-19 positive samples sent for genomic sequencing just over two weeks ago, three have come back as being of the British variant known by the scientific name, B.1.1.7.
All other variants were ruled out from the samples.
The three samples with the UK variant came from travellers from the United Kingdom and Barbados.
An official statement said of these three people who tested positive for the UK variant, “one traveller group has been discharged from quarantine and the other remains in quarantine.”
The UK variant is said to be around 50% more transmissible than the original COVID-19 virus which caused the original outbreak and is responsible for a huge spike in cases across the UK with cases now showing up elsewhere in the world.
Just a few days ago, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said early evidence had suggested the variant of coronavirus that emerged in the UK may be more deadly, although debate on that assessment continues in the UK's scientific community.
Chief Medical Officer, Dr John Lee, said: “It is not surprising that we now have confirmation of this variant in the Cayman Islands as we know it to be virulent and widespread.”
However, he assured that “our strict adherence to quarantine protocols in the Cayman Islands is keeping the threat of COVID-19 at bay.”
The CMO is particularly encouraging “everyone dealing with travellers to remain vigilant and adhere to infection prevention and control strategies at all times.”
Dr Eryka Simmons, acting Medical Officer of Health said, “This new service from CARPHA is much appreciated by the Cayman Islands Ministry of Health, and complements well the PCR testing capabilities at the HSA and Doctors’ Hospital to help monitor and keep our communities free from COVID-19”.
CARPHA is able to assist with genomic sequencing for a selection of samples with high viral loads at a rate of ten samples per month.
Meanwhile, the British government said today that it will offer its world-leading genomics expertise to identify new variants of the virus that causes COVID-19 to countries who do not have the resources to do so.
Countries will be offered UK capacity to analyse new strains of the virus through the launch of the New Variant Assessment Platform which will be led by Public Health England (PHE) working with NHS Test and Trace and academic partners as well as the World Health Organization’s SARS-CoV-2 Global Laboratory Working Group.
It said, they will be working directly on samples provided from abroad or will provide expert advice and support remotely where the partner country already has some capabilities in this area but requests further assistance.
The statement added that “this vital work will combat the spread of coronavirus by identifying more COVID-19 variants around the world to keep the global community one step ahead of any mutations.”