No signs of variants in Guyana’s COVID-19 samples – CARPHA

The Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPA) has announced that no variants of COVID-19 were detected in the samples that were sent for gene sequencing a few weeks ago.
Health Minister, Dr Frank Anthony on Thursday stated that this was communicated to him on Wednesday evening by officials at the agency.
“CARPHA informed us that the 10 samples that we sent to them, they have been able to complete the gene sequencing and they haven’t found any of the new variants that are currently talked about, that is the one first discovered in UK, the one in South Africa and the one next door (Brazil),” Dr Anthony stated.
Nevertheless, he said they would continue to send samples for analysis in order to determine if any of the new strains were circulating locally. The Minister also emphasised that the level of vigilance should not diminish.
‘In a way, this is good news but that does not mean that we have to decease our vigilance, because we’ll still have to continue taking samples and sending them out just to get a sense of what is circulating here in Guyana,” he said.
New variants of the COVID-19 virus have been circulating in several countries thus sparking efforts by Government to conduct gene sequencing. This is to detect whether these strains are circulating locally, but Guyana is not equipped with such resources. Dr Anthony had said that the Health Ministry has since facilitated discussion with the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) and the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to work out an arrangement.
Some of the new strains are said to be highly-transmissible.
“We’re looking at several options, one of which is sending 10 samples per month to CARPHA so that they can do the sequencing. In addition to that, we’re working through PAHO to be able to send samples to CDC. Hopefully, through these arrangements and analysis of the sequencing, we’ll be able to at least have some sense on the types of variants that are circulating in Guyana,” the Minister had stated.
In the past weeks, two variants were detected in Brazil, causing Guyana to cease all border travel and flights. There is tighter security at the border regions, with routine patrols by the Joint Services to prevent any illegal crossings from the neighbouring country.
There were reports of a more transmissible strain of the coronavirus, which was detected first in the United Kingdom but has already spread to the United States. Health officials in South Africa had also disclosed the detection of another strain.
At the end of January, PAHO had informed that three variants of the SARS-CoV-2 virus were detected across 14 countries in the Americas. PAHO Incident Manager Sylvain Aldighieri had asked local authorities to strengthen activities to monitor the virus and expand surveillance.
“Mutations are an expected part of the spread of any virus…That’s why we’re asking national and local authorities to continue to strengthen existing disease control activities, including monitoring COVID-19 closely. We need epidemiological surveillance, including expanding regional genomics surveillance, outbreak investigation, and contact tracing. Where appropriate, we need to adjust public health and social measures to reduce transmission,” Aldighieri had noted.