The dreaded delta strain of Covid-19 has been confirmed in the country, health officials announced last night.
The Ministry of Health says the variant of concern – which was first identified in India late last year – was found in one of a group of seven samples taken in the country between May 5 and July 2.
The alpha variant of concern, first identified in Antigua and Barbuda late last month, was identified in the other six samples.
The delta is particularly worrying as it is more transmissible, and has been linked to more severe symptoms, along with an increased risk of hospitalisation and death.
“There is also preliminary evidence of twice the rate of hospitalisation for unvaccinated persons when compared to those who are vaccinated,” a statement said.
Government says it has increased its surveillance for virus variants at the public hospital.
“As a result of this … we have been able to identify the alpha, beta and delta variants of concern in Antigua and Barbuda,” the statement continued.
Health chiefs are appealing to residents to stick to safety rules on social distancing, facemask-wearing and hygiene etiquette.
“The public is reminded that after recording no active cases of Covid-19 for a few weeks we are now seeing an increase in the number of cases.
“This reinforces the fact that we must continue to adhere to the public health measure to prevent and control the disease,” the statement urged.
It said “vaccination is one of the most effective measures” to curtail the virus’ spread.
“Persons are therefore urged to get fully vaccinated utilising the AstraZeneca and Sinopharm vaccines readily available at our vaccination centres in the Multipurpose and Cultural Centre and the Villa Polyclinic,” the statement added.
The World Health Organization has so far confirmed four variants of concern circulating globally. Antigua and Barbuda has been sending samples to the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) in Trinidad for genomic sequencing to detect variants since October 2020.