The St. Lucia Government says it is reviewing the threat of a more infectious strain of COVID-19 currently accounting for a significant spread in the United Kingdom but is not yet ready to announce a ban on flights out of the UK.
A statement from the Ministry of Health says preliminary guidance has been received from PAHO/WHO and the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control, “against the application of any travel or trade restriction for the UK based on the information currently available on the event.”
“There is no indication at this point of increased greater severity or harmfulness associated with this new variant or any challenges it shall pose to the effectiveness of the vaccines currently available,” the Health Ministry noted.
According to the Ministry, “On December 14, 2020, the United Kingdom public health agency reported a variant of SARS-CoV-2 in 1,108 individuals. The newly identified strain has been in circulation since September 2020 in the United Kingdom. It is important to note that a feature of viruses is that they change over time and hundreds of variations of SARS-CoV virus have been identified with time.
The preliminary analysis in the United Kingdom suggests that the virus has an increased risk of being transmitted as much as 70%. The United Kingdom government has noted significant transmission and spread in the areas where the variant SARS-CoV-2 strain has been found.”
“The public health team at the Ministry of Health and Wellness is reviewing all information in relation to this new threat, in consultation with international and regional public health agencies to guide the way forward in reducing possible impacts to our country.
“This situation further proves the importance of strict adherence to all protocols recommended to reduce transmission of the virus. There is need for maintaining and even increasing our vigilance at all levels where risks have been identified.”
“As we celebrate the Christmas season, let us all remain on alert and remain committed to protecting the health and safety of our family, friends, colleagues and neighbours. We ask all to minimize movements, avoid social gatherings and other activities which will bring about greater exposure to the virus,” the statement noted.
“Let us continue practicing infection prevention and control measures to minimize the spread of COVID-19.
As of Monday, St Lucia has recorded a total of 287 confirmed cases of COVID-19 out of a total of 18,642 tests for the virus that have been processed to date.
“We have a recorded a total of 261 recoveries and 5 total COVID-19 related deaths. Currently, there are 21 active cases and no critical cases in care. There are no new cases reported today December 21, 2020.”
The Ministry of Health and Wellness says it continues to monitor the global and regional analysis of the COVID-19 situation as we actively assess our risks and make required recommendations to adjust our response to suit.
“We note the steady rate of increase of COVID-19 cases in most countries as they experience their second wave of the pandemic. We continue to be guided by best practices as we strengthen the existing national protocols,” the Ministry advised.
Meanwhile, the main opposition St.Lucia Labour Party has called on the government to follow the example set by other countries immediately.