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Posted: Friday 6 January, 2023 at 12:54 PM

New XBB.1.5 COVID subvariant detected in the Caribbean

By: Staff Reporter,

    … No recommendation for travel just yet


    BASSETERRE, St. Kitts - AS many countries in the worls are grappling with the purported new XBB.1.5 subvariant of COVID, it has been revealed that the strain has been in circulation in the Caribbean since last year.


    This was confirmed by the Executive Director of the Caribbean Public Health Agency, Dr. Joy St. John, who said that and other variants, including the Delta Variant, have already been in the region.


    She made the disclosure as matching was made based on tracking and reports from member states where severe illnesses and deaths have been reported.


    Dr. St. John noted that they have seen other issues such as RSV, the Flu, and Bird Flu causing severe illness, hospitalization and death across the Caribbean.


    Health officials are concerned that many territories have reopened and are not testing incoming passengers, while at the same time removing the mask mandate, thus opened up territories for continued spread of many illnesses, such as the RSV, COVID and the Flu.


    Dr. St. John charged that it is “unscientific” to prevent people of various countries from coming to the region when the viruses are already in circulation across the member states..


    All of these discoveries come as CARPHA continues with its Genomic Sequence testing to determine the exact variants in the region. 


    However, not all territories in the region had sent samples for such testing to CARPHA, but Dr. St. John emphasized that the variants have not only been found in visitors, but in the locations’ population as well.


    Against that backdrop, she is reminding people to keep up-to-date with their booster shots.


    According to the Executive Director, a number of recommendations were made to the two- member states under CARPHA’s umbrella on the way forward, including not instituting travel restrictions at this time. 


    Meanwhile, guidelines have been developed specifically for the Caribbean on how to handle COVID and related viruses.


    In the Federation, the Government is still said to be keeping a close watch on developments in the United States and China. 


    Prime Minister Dr. Terrance Drew recently said that the Government, through the Ministry of Health, would be closely monitoring the tripledemic in the United States of America, - COVID, Flu and RSV.


    Dr. Drew confirm that his Government would be seeking to source more vaccines for those persons who are interested in having updated boosters.  


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