New COVID strain could reverse plans to lift SOE

The content originally appeared on: Antigua News Room

Prime Minister Gaston Browne has warned AntiguanS and Barbudians that the country could be one of the first Caribbean states to detect a case of the Omicron variant of COVID-19.

According to Browne, Antigua’s strong air link with the United Kingdom, which recently detected its first case of the Omicron variant, is both a blessing and a curse since the virus could be brought in by an unsuspecting traveller.

“You can be assured that if there is any significant spread in the United Kingdom it will end up here in the Caribbean. We will monitor the development of this particular strain within the upcoming weeks,” Browne said.

The World Health Organisation labelled Omicron as a variant of concern last week after researchers in South Africa found that it had several mutations from the original COVID-19 virus that made it more transmissible.

Antigua and Barbuda has restricted entry to travellers who have visited South Africa, Botswana, Belgium and Hong Kong within the last 14 days.

There are fears that Omicron is able to escape from anti-bodies developed by COVID-19 vaccines.

Browne noted plans to discontinue the curfew and state of emergency on December 23 could be scrapped since they will be needed to prevent Omicron from taking root in Antigua.

The country now has 16 active COVID-19 infections which is down from over 1,100 just three months ago.

About 57 per cent of Antiguans and Barbudians are vaccinated against COVID-19 and the government hopes to have over 60,000 islanders vaccinated by December 31.

Browne has called on the island’s unvaccinated population to take a shot of the vaccines available in the country since they are effective against present strains.

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