More than 30 samples sent to US for Omicron testing
Results are expected soon for more than 30 samples from suspected cases of the Omicron Covid-19 variant flown overseas for tests.
A spokeswoman for the health ministry said a turnaround of a few days was expected on the samples sent to a lab in the US.
She added: “The Government has sent 33 samples to a lab in the US that should provide results in three business days rather than the three weeks for the Caribbean Public Health Agency.
“The 33 samples sent to the US are for imported cases detected from November 7 to November 27.”
The Government, however, did not give a date for when the samples were sent abroad.
The spokeswoman said: “The Omicron variant has gene mutations that are also seen in the Alpha and Delta variants.
“So out of an abundance of caution, any positive case that has these mutations present has been sent overseas for sequencing.”
But the spokeswoman added: “The presence of these utations alone does not mean it is Omicron.
“The only way this can be confirmed is through full genetic sequencing.”
The Government usually gives Covid-19 updates on Mondays and Thursdays, but no update was provided last night.
However, this morning Government said it is to hold a Coronavirus briefing at 4pm today. A notice advising the media of the event did not say who would be representing the Government.
The Government said last week that there had been no confirmed Omicron cases found on the island.
The health spokeswoman added that the Government had kept in close touch with Public Health England and was also keeping tabs on Omicron developments from the US Centres for Disease Control and the World Health Organisation.
She said: “Due to the WHO announcement of the Omicron variant, variant screening will now happen daily on all new positive cases – previously, this was weekly.”
The spokeswoman added that samples sent to the Caribbean Public Health Agency would take “at least three weeks” to process, but the spokeswoman said faster options were being considered.