The UK strain of COVID-19, said to be likely more contagious and potentially lethal, is in Barbados, the Prime Minister has confirmed, merely three days after health authorities declared there was community spread of the viral illness.
She told the nation: “I regret therefore to inform you that we have also now in addition to community spread been informed that there are traces of the new COVID variant in tests conducted on the island as well.
“[Health] Minister [Lt. Col. Jeffrey] Bostic has indicated that ten samples were sent to CARPHA [Caribbean Public Health Agency] and indeed we have now received results that three of those ten samples returned positive for the UK variant of the virus. We are only now one of several Caribbean islands and countries that now has this variant.”
The disclosure came hours after the Cayman Islands disclosed that Barbados was linked to test samples from the Cayman Islands sent to CARPHA that confirmed the variant there.
Cayman Islands Chief Medical Officer Dr John Lee said the three samples were taken from travellers from the United Kingdom and Barbados.
On Monday, Executive Director of the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) Dr Joy St John told Barbados TODAY the UK variant has spread across the Caribbean chain from Jamaica in the north to Trinidad and Tobago in the south but this was not surprising.
“Once we saw that sandwich of north and southern Caribbean, we expected it…because that’s how we normally exhibit. They either come down the chain from North America or we come up the chain from South America. So we were looking for that,” she stated.
Last Friday, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the variant spread more quickly and may be associated with “a higher degree of mortality”.
But scientists have argued that Johnson’s conclusions were based on relatively small data and that it was too early to draw strong conclusions.