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Health Minister says Guyana on alert for Brazilian COVID variant

Last Updated on Friday, 15 January 2021, 15:32 by Denis Chabrol

Health Minister Dr. Frank Anthony on Friday said Guyana is on high alert for the Brazilian coronavirus variant of concern that could spready much faster and pose serious problems for the country.

He said health officials in Region Nine (Upper Takatu/ Upper Essequibo), which is much closer to the border with Brazil, are monitoring the situation in that Portuguese-speaking nation. Dr. Anthony said Guyanese health authorities are “very concerned” although this is very limited goods traffic is allowed every Thursday under very strict supervision.

“We, nevertheless, have to continue to be vigilant about it because we don’t want cases to spike and then if it’s a variant that is very transmissible, then we can easily see an increase in cases,” said Dr. Anthony. “The health authorities in Region Nine have been alerted and they have been on the lookout for any changes in the epidemiological pattern,” he added.

One of the Brazilian variants is regarded as of being concern to scientists because it makes it harder for persons’ defence systems to fight it off.

He acknowledged that government was concerned about the new mutation that has so far been labelled the “variant of concern” because it is more easily transmitted. “If this is more transmissible, then more people are going to get infected and if more people are going to get infected, then we can assume that we’ll get a percentage of them coming into the hospital , coming in from the hospital needing ICU (Intensive Care),” he said in his daily update through government’s Department of Public Information (DPI).

Scientists say the virus can mutate every two weeks such as the variants in the United Kingdom, South Africa, Japan and Brazil. The Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) believes that, through its network of 21 laboratories, has detected the variant in several countries.

Authorities said Guyana depends on advanced testing by the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) to determine the strains of viruses.

Meanwhile, Opposition Leader Joseph Harmon scoffed at the response by government to contain the spread of the virus and he called on government to put “stronger measures on our borders” but he did not elaborate. 

He accused government of being responsible for the escalation in the number of infected persons.