The novel severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) is the cause of the COVID-19 disease, which was declared a pandemic on March 11, 2020. Since then, at least six (6) variants have emerged. The “UK variant” (B.1.1.7 variant), which emerged in September 2020, has been identified in 60 countries globally and recently, in some Caribbean countries.
The UK variant, based on initial data, has higher transmissibility, which has led it to begin to eclipse and replace other SARS-CoV-2 variants in affected populations. Ongoing studies related to the transmission and severity of the UK variant are underway. This increased ease of transmission is of grave concern for its impact on public health and the fight to contain and end the COVID-19 pandemic. This is further heightened by the fact that, at present, the vaccines have not yet been proven to stop disease transmission but rather to mitigate the severity of infection.
The Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) thus strongly urges its Member States to enhance community surveillance and public health control measures (including quarantine and isolation, wearing face masks and coverings, physical distancing, hand sanitization, avoiding crowds) in both local and visitor populations. Further, CARPHA reminds its Member States that as most cases will have no or mild symptoms, that COVID-19 cases may quietly increase in the community and result in sudden increases in hospitalizations and deaths. CARPHA also urges enhanced surveillance in residential institutions and face to face educational settings and strict adherence to the requirements of negative COVID-19 results for entry to the ports in the Member States to effectively continue combating COVID-19 spread in the Caribbean.