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Presence of BA.2.86 variant cannot be confirmed

Kim Wilson, the Minister of Health, has said it has not been confirmed whether the newest variant of Covid-19 has arrived on the island (File photograph by Blaire Simmons)

The Ministry of Health has said it cannot confirm whether the newest variant of Covid-19 is on the island.

Kim Wilson, the Minister of Health, speaking of the BA.2.86 variant, which has a high number of mutations and could neutralise the immune system, said that samples had recently been sent to the Caribbean Public Health Agency for sequencing and that the Office of the Chief Medical Officer continues to consult with the UK Health Security Agency regarding Covid-19 variants.

Ms Wilson said: “The results of these samples will provide information on the specific Covid-19 variant strains currently circulating in Bermuda. Any public health action will be determined after assessing these results, gauging global health trends and our continued monitoring of the impacts of Covid-19 in Bermuda. The ministry will also send more samples for evaluation later this month.

“Our local data showed an increasing trend in reported Covid cases to the Ministry of Health at the beginning of August. However, that reporting has decreased. I encourage anyone who suspects they are infected to take an at-home Covid test. At-home tests can help individuals quickly determine their Covid-19 status and take appropriate precautions to prevent the spread of the virus.

“Individuals who test positive for Covid-19 using at-home tests should report their results to their physician. This reporting is essential for tracking the virus's spread within the community.”

The Office of the Chief Medical Officer is working with the UKHSA and the Pan American Health Organisation to procure vaccine boosters.

Priority will be given to those most at risk of severe reactions to Covid-19, including seniors and those with underlying health conditions.

A spokeswoman for the ministry said: “Once boosters become available, more information will be provided. The Covid-19 vaccine will continue to be an essential tool for protection as we head into the fall vaccination season.

“Everyone can play a role in preventing and reducing the spread of respiratory diseases, including influenza and Covid-19, by following preventive measures such as wearing masks, practising good hand hygiene, maintaining physical distance, staying home when sick, and covering coughs and sneezes.”

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Published September 11, 2023 at 7:53 am (Updated September 11, 2023 at 8:25 am)

Presence of BA.2.86 variant cannot be confirmed

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