[UPDATED] Prof Carrington: Majority of covid19 samples are gamma variant

File photo
File photo

Professor of molecular genetics and virology at UWI Christine Carrington has said the vast majority of covid19 samples being collected test positive for the gamma variant.

Carrington was speaking at the Ministry of Health’s virtual press conference on Monday.

She said the gamma variant is one of four variants of concern recognised by the World Health Organization (WHO), and the only one which has reached community spread in Trinidad and Tobago.

The other variants of concern are the alpha, beta and, most recently, the delta variant.

“So far, of the samples coming to us, the vast majority are gamma,” she said. “The only others we’ve seen are the six delta variants.”

Principal Medical Officer Dr Maryam Abdool-Richards said all six identified delta variant cases were all quarantined on arrival in the country according to the national health protocols for unvaccinated people entering TT.

She said all have passed through the parallel healthcare system, some have been discharged and the others are doing well.

Carrington said the delta variant remains the dominant variant in most parts of the world and the vaccines have been proven effective in protecting against severe illness and death in those who have contracted the variants.

“Vaccines allow your body to get a glimpse of the enemy and prepare in advance…even if the enemy is a variant that looks slightly different (from) the enemy you prepared for.”

She said because the unvaccinated are quarantined on arrival, it helps to mitigate the chance of community spread.

“The aim is to reduce the risk, (and) we’re doing everything we can to reduce the chance of spread in the community.”

Carrington said because the six delta cases were quarantined upon arrival, there is no evidence of community spread.

She said there are five other variants of interest which, like the variants of concern, are known to affect the virus’s characteristics, but they have not been shown to behave differently from the parent virus.

The variants of interest are eta, iota, kappa, lambda, and mu. Carrington said none of these variants of interest have been identified in Trinidad and Tobago, but are present in the region.

She said there are many misconceptions about the vaccines circulating in the public, including the idea that there is no point in getting vaccinated because of the possibility of still contracting the virus.

“This is wrong, because infection is not the same as disease. Not all infections lead to disease…Like all other vaccines, covid19 vaccines were designed to protect against disease, not infection, and they are actually doing a fantastic job at protecting against disease.”

She said it is also incorrect to assume that there is no point in taking the vaccine if there are variants present.

“The vaccines we have still massively reduce the chance of severe disease and death.”

Carrington also said vaccinations are not the cause of variants.

“All variants of concern and interest were in circulation before the vaccines.”

“You can only get mutations when you have infected individuals. The more infected people there are, the more likely the chance of variants.”

Abdool-Richards said there is an overall 36 per cent hospital occupancy, a consistent trend since July.

She said ward level occupancy is at 34 per cent, where four out of ten beds are occupied.

She said trends continue to show ICU occupancy is still high:intensive care unit (ICU) is at 76 per cent and the high dependency unit (HDU) is at 30 per cent.

“Once a person contracts covid19, there is a risk of needing high-level care.”

This story has been adjusted to include additional details. See original post below.

Professor of molecular genetics and virology at UWI Christine Carrington has said the vast majority of covid19 samples being collected test positive for the gamma variant.

Carrington was speaking at the Ministry of Health’s virtual press conference on Monday.

She said the gamma variant is one of four variants of concern recognised by the World Health Organization (WHO), and the only one which has reached community spread in Trinidad and Tobago.

The other variants of concern are the alpha, beta and, most recently, the delta variant.

“So far, of the samples coming to us, the vast majority are gamma,” she said. “The only others we’ve seen are the six delta variants.”

Principal Medical Officer Dr Maryam Abdool-Richards said all six identified delta variant cases were all quarantined on arrival in the country according to the national health protocols for unvaccinated people entering TT.

She said all have passed through the parallel healthcare system, some have been discharged and the others are doing well.

Carrington said the delta variant remains the dominant variant in most parts of the world and the vaccines have been proven effective in protecting against severe illness and death in those who have contracted the variants.

“Vaccines allow your body to get a glimpse of the enemy and prepare in advance…even if the enemy is a variant that looks slightly different (from) the enemy you prepared for.”

She said because the unvaccinated are quarantined on arrival, it helps to mitigate the chance of community spread.

“The aim is to reduce the risk, (and) we’re doing everything we can to reduce the chance of spread in the community.”

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"[UPDATED] Prof Carrington: Majority of covid19 samples are gamma variant"

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