Health Minister suspects Omicron variant already in Guyana

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Health Minister, Dr. Frank Anthony has reported an increase in the number of Covid-19 cases in Guyana, noting that the spike started at the end of December 2021.

During his first Covid-19 update for the year, Dr.  Anthony reported, “On the 28th of December we saw 32 cases, by the 29th of December, that went up to 87 cases, and on the 30th that jumped to 161 and by the 31st of December that went up to 182, so we started closing the end of the year with cases going up.”

“On the 1st of January, we saw that went up to 209, then yesterday it was 284, so there is an upward trend in these cases.” Dr. Anthony added. Minister Anthony explained that over the last 24 hours, there were 98 new cases out of 1204 tests that were done. “Relatively low numbers of tests, but the positive cases remain relatively high to the tests that were done,” he said.

Currently, there are 1396 active cases, and where there is an increase in all regions, some regions that stand out are Region Three (Essequibo Islands-West Demerara) with 112 cases, Region Four (Demerara-Mahaica) with 846 cases, and Region Six (East Berbice-Corentyne) with 236 cases.

So far, 40 persons are currently hospitalised with Covid-19 with 20 at the Infectious Disease Hospital at Liliendaal, Greater Georgetown.  Six of them are in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU), while two are below the age of 18 years.

While no case of Omicron has thus far been confirmed in Guyana, the health minister believes that the variant may be present here.

 

He said, “We suspect that we might have (the) Omicron variant that is in circulation in Guyana because, based on these numbers we know that in other countries with Omicron it’s highly contagious. So, the numbers would keep multiplying every two to four days, you’ll have an increase in these numbers, and so with the way that this has rapidly progressed over the last couple of days, we suspect that from an epidemiological point of view, that we might have omicron that is in circulation here.”

The minister is therefore urging the public to continue to practice the safety measures that have been put in place to guard against infection of the respiratory illness.

“We need to be extra vigilant, the same public health measures that we have been talking about… we have to practice them, they are not going to protect you if you are not practicing them,” he said.

Persons are being encouraged to wear procedural or surgical masks or N95 masks which have several layers of protection and offer better protection than the cloth masks.

“In a lot of instances people have stopped doing some of these things and because we have become complacent, we are going to have challenges. I really want to appeal to persons to go back to those tested methods, of sanitising, keeping your distance, and wearing your mask,” Dr. Anthony urged.

The minister is also encouraging persons to get vaccinated or booster shots for protection. Dr. Anthony said based on trends in other countries, while there are lots of cases, hospitalisation is less, and even when there is hospitalisation, the duration of stay is shorter.  The local health system is prepared if that trend changes here.

“We have prepared our health system, since last year. We started to do so at every regional hospital. We have beds that are set aside for Covid-19 patients, we put ventilators there, have special beds, put monitors in these hospitals, we have trained the doctors and nurses to manage these patients. If we do have surges in these regions, we feel we have the capacity in these regions to manage.”

In addition, the ministry has also ensured that there is an adequate supply of oxygen in all the regions and also antiretrovirals that work against the Covid-19 virus. The health minister noted that if things get ‘out of hand’ then additional measures will be put in place, but at this time it is not anticipated.

The health ministry will also continue sending samples to the relevant labs, for variant testing.

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