CMO Dr Roshan Parasram said the omicron variant has overtaken the delta variant in terms of the percentage detected during random sampling.
Speaking at the Health Ministry’s media conference on Wednesday, he said two weeks ago omicron accounted for 25 per cent of the sequences submitted for testing.
“Last week, of the samples submitted for testing, 56 per cent were omicron, while 44 per cent were delta. There were also a few residual gamma cases.”
He said while the focus is on omicron, people need to remember that delta is still active and more serious than omicron.
“The average person can’t tell which one of the variants they’re going to get infected with at any given point in time. We do have delta as well as omicron, more or less 50-50 at this point in time in terms of the cumulative samples that have been sequenced.
"So we’re asking for continued adherence to the public health guidelines and for people to get vaccinated and boosted. You won’t know whether you have omicron or delta unless you are sequenced but at the end of the day it is something to be considered and cognisant of that delta is still here.
"We have to be concerned that covid19 continues to be a severe disease that is causing severe illnesses and death.”
Parasram said the omicron variant now has three lineages: B.1.1.529, BA.1, BA.2. and BA.3, with the BA2 version is being described as the “stealth” version of the variant in that it has very few symptoms.
“What it means having a more transmissible variant is that a lot more people will be infected in a shorter period of time and it will run through the population faster. Some literature has suggested that 90 per cent of the cases had very few symptoms and the term stealth speaks to the asymptomatic nature and speed of spread.
“We do expect there will be breakthrough infections, especially now that omicron is here, but we haven’t been actively tracking it in terms of infection as what we are concerned with is the number of people who are hospitalised. This will tend to decrease as the number of people in the society are vaccinated increase.
"We are beginning to track boosters and once we have enough information we can compile it and present it. The important information to note is the vaccine status of people who are in hospital and who are dying.”
Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh said even though case numbers are high, the hospitalisation rates are decreasing. He said between December 27 and January 25, the number of people needing hospital care decreased by 102, which is significant given that the hospital capacity is 706.
Parasram said hospitalisation depends on many factors, including whether the infection is caused by omicron, the general state of vaccination in the country, and the amount of people who have been infected over the last two years, meaning they would have gotten some level of immunity.
The CMO commented on reports that people with flu-like symptoms were reporting to be tested for covid19 but received negative results.
“We are in the middle of the flu season which runs from October to May in this hemisphere and we expect to have some of the people who are exhibiting flu-like symptoms to be influenza as well. As at January 1, we would have had 192 suspected cases compared to 855 of the previous year. The public health measures are having an effect on other viral-like illnesses. The proportion of people testing positive for covid19 is 50-60 per cent, with flu-like illnesses the others normally form part of the common cold or any other flu-like illnesses, so there are lots of other viruses that remain in circulation.”
Deyalsingh said he would be meeting with Digital Transformation Minister Hassel Bacchus on Thursday to discuss the vaccine verification exercise.
“Two weeks ago, Ministers Bacchus and Young said there were global security issues regarding databases, main element of the keep back. I will be speaking with him on tomorrow and hopefully by Saturday we could give you an update but as soon as they are ready they will launch it.”