Additional samples sent to Panama to test for new omicron strain

Additional samples sent to Panama to test for new omicron strain

NASSAU, BAHAMAS — One hundred samples have been sent to Panama for gene sequencing to determine whether a new, more transmissible subvariant of the omicron strain has reached The Bahamas’ shores.

The World Health Organization said it is monitoring the subvariant strain of omicron, known as BA2, which has become the dominant strain in the United States and the United Kingdom.

Responding to questions from Eyewitness News, PAHO Incident Manager Dr Sylvain Aldighieri said gene sequencing of a batch of samples taken from The Bahamas In February confirmed the presence of the original strain of omicron, BA1.

Health officials attributed the fourth wave in mid-December through February to this omicron strain.

“Omicron is the predominant variant of SarsCOV2 that has been detected in the Americas including the Caribbean,” Aldighieri said.

“Regarding the situation in The Bahamas, I would say that thanks to a very close collaboration between the national public health laboratory and the PAHO office in Nassau… it was possible to detect and to characterize…of the variant of concern omicron in samples that were taken by the reference laboratory in Nassau.

“And the samples were processed and sequenced at the Gorgas Institute in Panama during the month of February.

“So, far only the sub-lineage omicron BA1 has been detected in The Bahamas.

“Nevertheless, as a part of a sustained effort from the national public health laboratory 100 additional samples were sent recently to the reference laboratory in Panama, the Gorgas Institute, to maintain the surveillance and to detect BA2.

“When available the results will be shared timely.”

Yesterday, PAHO Assistant Director Dr Jarbas Barbosa said vaccines remain effective against the new variants and will protect people against severe illness

This week, Minister of Health Dr Michael Darville said the government is concerned about the potential for an increase in coronavirus cases as a result of a more transmissible subvariant of the omicron strain.

He said the majority of people admitted to hospital with COVID were either unvaccinated or partially vaccinated.

The Bahamas continues to record in the low, single, and double digits

But in recent days the majority of new COVID cases have had a history of travel in the last 14 days, increasing the likelihood of importation of the more transmissible subvariant.

About Royston Jones Jr.

Royston Jones Jr. is a senior digital reporter and occasional TV news anchor at Eyewitness News. Since joining Eyewitness News as a digital reporter in 2018, he has done both digital and broadcast reporting, notably providing the electoral analysis for Eyewitness News’ inaugural election night coverage, “Decision Now 2021”.