Coronavirus
JM | Apr 21, 2022

COVID-19 case increase likely, as Omicron BA.2 variant now in Jamaica

Juanique Tennant

Juanique Tennant / Our Today

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Chief Medical Officer Dr Jacqueline Bisasor-McKenzie

Following confirmation of the presence of the highly transmissible Omicron BA.2 variant in Jamaica, Dr Jacqueline Bisasor-McKenzie, chief medical officer in the Ministry of Health and Wellness, says an increase in the COVID-19 infection rate may be looming.

In a media release today (April 21) the health ministry advised that”the latest gene sequencing results from the National Influenza Centre at the University Hospital of the West Indies have indicated the presence of the Omicron BA.2 variant in Jamaica”.

Of 89 samples sequenced with sample dates from January 1 to March 4, 2022, 98.9 per cent were Omicron variants and 1.1 per cent were Delta variants.

The ministry’s release further noted that “of the Omicron samples, two of 88 or 2.3 per cent were BA.2 variant and 97.7 per cent were BA.1 variant”.

Scores of Jamaicans attend a vaccination blitz exercise to receive a dose of a WHO-approved COVID-19 vaccine

Given this, Bisasor-McKenzie cautioned that “the BA.2 variant, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), is the dominant variant globally and the type of illness associated with this variant is similar to the BA.1 variant”.

She noted: “The variant is highly transmissible and as a result, there may be an increase in the number of COVID-19 cases.”

The chief medical officer informed that “while majority of cases (of the BA.2 variant) appear to be mild, persons with comorbidities are at risk for severe illness and persons who have mild symptoms and no symptoms may be at risk for developing long COVID”.

A Jamaican woman receives dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. (Photo: Facebook @ChrisTufton)

She added: “The public is therefore encouraged to practise infection prevention and control measures including wearing of masks, hand washing, physical distancing and staying home if you are sick.”

In the meantime, the health ministry is reminding the public that vaccination is widely available and protects against severe illness.

Persons 12 years and older are encouraged to visit a vaccination site if they have not already done so. Similarly, those who have been vaccinated are encouraged to take the booster dose as protection from the vaccine wanes over time.

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