BA 2 VARIANT IDENTIFIED IN THE TURKS AND CAICOS ISLANDS



On 29th April, the Ministry of Health and Human Services received the results of sequencing of samples which were sent to the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA).

Samples were submitted by the National Public Health Laboratory in the TCI as a part of its routine surveillance for variants of COVID-19.


Out of 26 samples submitted for sequencing, 22 results were reported with 20 out of the 22 samples being Omicron BA.2 lineage. The remaining two samples were BA.1 and BA.1.1. Of the BA.2 samples, 16 were from visitors and 4 from residents on the islands of Providenciales, Grand Turk and South Caicos.


SARS-CoV-2 is the virus which causes COVID-19. It has evolved and mutated since the start of the pandemic. All viruses mutate over time. Through global monitoring by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and other public health bodies, variants of the virus have been identified and named.


Variants of concern are defined as variants for which there is evidence of an increase in transmissibility (ease of spread), more severe disease (for example, increased hospitalizations or deaths), reduced effectiveness of treatments or vaccines, or diagnostic detection failures.

The omicron or BA.1 variant was designated by the WHO as a variant of concern on November 26, 2021. Due to its highly transmissible nature, it caused surges in cases of COVID-19 around the world including the TCI. At this time, it became the predominant strain globally.


This variant caused milder illness, resulting in fewer deaths and hospitalizations than the delta variant which had spread across the world earlier.


BA.2 is a subvariant of the omicron variant and is even more transmissible than the original omicron variant. It is highly transmissible meaning that it tends to spread rapidly from person to person. It is not thought to cause severe disease, however, hospitalizations and deaths have been noted in the current surges attributed to this variant.


Factors such as vaccination status and prior infection as well as the presence of underlying health conditions have an impact on the severity of illness resulting from infection with this variant as well as outcomes.


Studies have shown that vaccinations and boosters offer strong protection against severe disease and hospitalization due to COVID-19 and its variants. As some studies have shown a waning in the protection offered by vaccines with time, boosters including the second booster have been approved particularly for those who may be vulnerable.


The Ministry of Health would like to use this opportunity to encourage residents to get vaccinated against COVID-19 if they have not already done so, and if they have received second dose of the vaccine more than three months ago, to get boosted.


For those who are at high risk and who have received the booster dose more than six months previously, a fourth dose is available. COVID-19 vaccines are provided free of cost to all residents of the TCI at all Government Primary Health Care Clinics as well as all private medical facilities.


Vaccines are also available for children from 5 years and older. Please contact your health care provider so that you can get your shot.


The Ministry of Health continues to encourage persons to:

1. Wash their hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds

2. Use alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available

3. Maintain social distancing of 6 feet between persons

4. Cover your coughs and sneezes with your elbow or use disposable tissues

5. If you have symptoms of COVID-19 which include cough, sore throat, runny nose, shortness of breath, fever, diarrhea, loss of sense of taste or smell-please stay at home and contact the Health Hotlines on 232 9444 or 333 0911 for guidance

6. If you are symptomatic, please remain at home and wear a well-fitting mask unless your


symptoms get worse such as:

• Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath

• Persistent pain or pressure in the chest

• New confusion

• Inability to wake or stay awake

• Pale, gray, or blue-colored skin, lips, or nail beds, depending on skin tone

· in which case please contact 911 immediately


If you have tested positive, please follow the MOH guidance which can be found on

https://www.gov.tc/moh/coronavirus/guidance/1581-guidance-for-persons-who-test[1]positive-for-covid-19.


Get tested -know your status. Testing is free at Ministry of Health testing sites. Also, Refrain from speculation and spreading rumors and stay informed with the latest information from the Ministry of Health by visiting our website on https://www.gov.tc/moh/coronavirus/

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