St Lucia has become the latest CARICOM country to confirm the presence of the Delta variant of the coronavirus (COVID-19).
Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Sharon Belmar-George, told a news conference, Friday, that the island has now recorded three cases of the virus, joining Trinidad and Tobago and Grenada in registering the presence of the deadly virus within a 72 hour period.
She told reporters that the three cases were among six new cases of Variants of Concern, the others being the Alpha Variant, which had been detected from the last batch of results of tests received from the Trinidad-based Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA).
“We have noted three new Delta cases in the country. These are the first Delta variant cases that we have recorded in the country,” she said, adding that the three Delta cases included two United States nationals and one St. Lucia.
“Of the three, only one was fully vaccinated,” she said.
The Chief Medical Officer said that being fully vaccinated does not prevent a person from contracting the virus that has killed 95 people and infected 6, 112 others since the first case was detected in march last year.
“In some countries based on the vaccine taken we see about 15 percent, 10 percent, five percent of persons getting what we call breakthrough infection where you are fully vaccinated and you can get COVID-19.
“So there is a risk of someone who is fully vaccinated can still get the disease but we have a number of layers of protection, one is a request for a pre-test before arrival into the country,” she said, acknowledging that there is also a possibility that during travel a person could become infected.
“There is still that risk of you coming in and spread,” she said, adding that the authorities have not yet qualified the rate of a fully vaccinated person transmitting the disease here.
“We know it is less because in someone who is fully vaccinated and develops COVID-19 , the viral load…is a low…(and) those persons tend to be asymptomatic or have very very mild symptoms.
“For the cases we have noted in country coming in, most persons need to do an exit test to leave country…we have not managed any outbreaks for transmissions from those persons. When we test those around them, when we test those who work with them, we have not had any outbreaks.
Dr. Belmar- George said that discussions will be held with various stakeholders from next week, including mini-bus operators, those in the tourism industry and the business community.
“We are at a very critical point, we have to reduce every single risk as much as possible. Enforcement of all of the public health protocols in every single sector is extremely important at this point,” she added.