(GIS) The Omicron variant of the virus which causes COVID-19 has been detected, through genomic sequencing, in a test sample from a traveller currently in isolation/quarantine in the Cayman Islands.
Omicron is the name for the B.1.1.529 variant, a SARS-CoV-2 mutation that originally surfaced in South Africa in November 2021. By 26 November the World Health Organisation (WHO) had named it a variant of concern due to a high number of mutations with the potential to impact the behaviour of the virus in unknown ways.
Chief Medical Officer (Interim) Dr Autilia Newton explains that some early studies of the Omicron variant have been completed, and more are underway to assess its transmissibility, the severity of illness, and the effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccine against the variant.
“There is still much to learn, but at the moment we can confirm that Omicron probably spreads more easily than the original SARS-CoV-2 virus. In addition vaccines still appear to offer the best protection against severe illness, hospitalisation and death. This is especially true for individuals who have had a booster shot”, Dr Newton says.
Reminding Caymanians and residents that COVID-19 vaccination clinics remain operational across all three Cayman Islands, Health & Wellness Minister, Hon. Sabrina Turner urges individuals to also practise basic COVID-19 prevention measures. These include: hand hygiene, social distancing, limiting attendance at large gatherings, and wearing masks in enclosed public spaces.
Premier, Hon. Wayne Panton, notes that the Cayman Islands’ has over the last few weeks tightened testing and quarantine processes for travellers, to minimise any risk posed by the Omicron variant.
“We reintroduced a 14-day quarantine for people who have recently travelled through or from countries at high risk for Omicron. In addition we have narrowed the period of time within which visitors must confirm they are COVID-negative before their arrival, while also widening testing options. Measures like this will help to keep the Cayman Islands safe in the weeks to come,” the Premier remarks.